MOUNT CARMEL -- Having started the season on the road in mostly frigid temperatures, Wabash Valley College's baseball team was eager to return to the friendly confines of Mount Carmel and make their home debut.
They did just that on a frigid Friday and Saturday afternoon, as they hosted Moraine Valley for a doubleheader and South Suburban for a game at Vincennes. The Warriors swept their foes, defeating Moraine Valley 9-1 in seven innings in game one, 15-3 in five innings in game two, and defeating South Suburban 5-1 in their final game of the weekend.
In game one Wabash Valley dominated their foes from start to finish.
After a scoreless first inning, the Warriors entered the second with hopes of having their bats come alive. The Warriors loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second, setting the stage for freshman first baseman Ole Arntson to hit a sacrifice fly and advance the runner on second to third base. Arntson's successful sacrifice fly set the stage for sophomore infielder Ronnie Allen with runners on the corners. Allen came through with a two RBI double, giving the Warriors a 3-0 lead to end the second inning.
Wabash Valley freshman starter Mason Vinyard got himself into a little trouble in the top of the third, stuck in a bases loaded jam with just one out. A Cyclone hitter showed bunt and missed the pitch, causing the runner on third to get stuck in a pickle and eventually chased down for the second out of the inning. Vinyard got the next batter to ground out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning sophomore second baseman Brian Fuentes led off and hit a bomb to straight away center field. The ball died at the bottom of the wall, but Fuentes hustled it out for a triple. Sophomore first baseman Cael Baker knocked in Fuentes with an RBI single, followed by an RBI single later in the inning by Allen once again, giving the Warriors a 5-0 edge.
Vinyard (1-0) had a strong outing, going 4 2-3 innings of four hit, six strikeouts and one run baseball. His one run was allowed in the top of the fifth inning with two outs after allowing an RBI double. Sophomore right-hander Janier Puente entered into the game to end the inning and pitching an additional inning.
Fuentes led off in the sixth inning and hit a solo shot for the Warriors, stretching their lead to 8-1 and adding another insurance run.
Freshman reliever Burrell Jones entered in the seventh inning in Puente's stead and fanned three batters to give the Warriors a 9-1 victory.
Fuentes ended the game 3-for-3 with a triple, home run and an RBI, and Allen went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a triple.
In the second game of the doubleheader Wabash Valley freshman righty Brandon McPherson started for the Warriors. McPherson pitched a scoreless first and second inning with ease.
The Warriors scored four runs of run support for McPherson in the first inning, including an RBI single by freshman catcher Zade Richardson, an RBI fielders choice by Allen, and a pair of passed balls that scored Warrior runners, giving them a 4-0 edge.
McPherson ran into a bit of trouble in the third inning by loading the bases with just one out in the inning. Wabash Valley head coach Rob Fournier came to the mound and replaced McPherson with freshman reliever Chris Torres. Torres entered and fanned the first batter and looked as if he might be able to get out of the jam. Unfortunately Moraine Valley's Antulio Esparza blasted a bases clearing double to bring the score to 4-3. Torres got the next batter to fly out to end the inning.
WVC entered the bottom of the inning with a seeming determination to pick up their pitchers and blow the game open. Baker led off the inning with a solo shot to left field, followed by a bases loaded RBI by freshman infielder Freylin Mineyte on a Cyclone throwing error. Sophomore center fielder Noah Myers stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and none out and grounded it to the shortstop, but the Cyclones committed another throwing error, scoring two runners and advancing Myers to second. Richardson, Allen, Mason Sykes and Mineyte each hammered home another RBI to give the Warriors an astounding 15-3 lead in an 11-run inning in which the Warriors hit through the order.
"That's something we talked about, being able to bounce back, being able to respond to when somebody scores with the same," coach Fournier spoke of the 11-run third inning. "I thought we did a really nice job of that."
The Warriors coasted the remaining two innings in the five inning game to the victory. McPherson (1-0) picked up his first win of the season with 2 1-3 IP, four hit, three run outing. Sophomore southpaw Andy Samuelson and freshman reliever Connor Fenlong came in after Torres and went 1 2-3 combined of no-hit, three strikeout baseball.
"Another solid performance, throwing strikes, pitching out a few times, getting ahead in the count, I thought we did a really nice job of getting ahead in the count," coach Fournier spoke of his pitching in the doubleheader. "I was really happy with that. In a day like this you just want to try to be solid and that's what we were."
Richardson ended the day 2-for-2 with three runs, three RBIs and a double to lead the Warriors bats. Baker finished 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs.
Coach Fournier had really harped on situational hitting entering the day and thought his team did an exceptional job of that, along with stealing bases, working the count, and being patient. The Warriors earned a total of 17 walks between the two games and stole five bases, with Myers notably stealing two. Job well done.
"Something we talked about before the games started was we have to do a better job of situational hitting, putting more pressure on teams," coach Fournier said. "I thought we did a really good job of situational hitting, putting pressure on them, stealing bases, getting bunts down and executing like we talked about. I was really pleased with that, something we had not executed and I felt we did that today and did a nice job."
The Warriors ended the weekend playing South Suburban at Vincennes. They emerged victorious in this game with some timely late inning hitting. The Warriors were tied 1-1 prior to a four-run sixth inning. Myers led the Warrior bats with a 2-for-5, one RBI performance. Sykes went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
Sophomore starter Jon Beymer (2-0) threw five innings of scoreless, two-hit, nine strikeout baseball to pick up his second win of the season. Freshman righty CJ Weins closed it for the Warriors by fanning the side in the ninth inning and picking up his third save of the season.
It was certainly a chilly weekend, less than ideal for baseball. Coach Fournier thinks his team will continue to improve once the weather warms up and will continue to realize their potential. There's a lot of guys still trying to earn playing time and establish themselves.
"Yeah, there's a lot of things," coach Fournier said. "We're playing a lot of guys, there's still a lot of competition everywhere. We're using a lot of pitchers so I'm happy with that. A lot of things to work on still but I'm really happy with our progression. I think we'll get a lot better offensively as it warms up."
Wabash Valley (11-1) will travel to face Lincoln Trail on Thursday at 3 p.m., prior to returning home to face Lincoln Trail for a doubleheader on Saturday (March 9) beginning at noon. If you plan on attending, it's supposed to be refreshingly warmer than the 30 degree weather this past weekend. The high for Saturday is tenatively 55 and it's likely to be cloudy.
WVC -- 0 3 2 1 1 2 0 -- 9
M -- 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -- 1
WVC notable hitting: Allen 2-for-3, 3 RBIs, 3B. Baker 1-for-4, RBI. Fuentes 3-for-3, home run, 3B, RBI. Arntson 0-for-1, 2 RBIs.
Pitching: WP: Vinyard (1-0) 4 2-3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K -- LP: Dobrik (0-1) 4 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 3 K.
WVC -- 4 0 11 0 0 -- 15
M -- 0 0 3 0 0 -- 3
WVC notable hitting: Richardson 2-for-2, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2B. Baker 2-for-3, home run, 2 RBIs. Myers 1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBIs, Allen 1-for-2, 2 RBIs, 2 R. Sykes 1-for-1, 2 R, 1 RBI, 3B. Wilson 0-for-1, RBI. Rivera 0-for-3, RBI.
Pitching: WP: McPherson (1-0) 2 1-3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB. -- LP: Smith 2 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 1 K.
WVC -- 0 0 1 0 0 4 0 0 0 -- 5
SS -- 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -- 1
WVC hitting: Myers 2-for-5, RBI. Sykes 2-for-4, RBI. Baker 1-for-4, RBI. Rivera 0-for-4, RBI, Fuentes 3-for-3, R.
Pitching: WP: Beymer (2-0) 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 9 K. -- LP: Cryan (0-1) 1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.