PARK HILLS – A very large crowd of baseball fans attended the area’s first baseball games of 2005 at MAC Field for Mineral Area College’s Homecoming. The MAC Cardinals did not disappoint them as they used excellent pitching and superb defense to take both ends of their opening doubleheader against the Rend Lake Warriors, 5-3 and 3-0.
“”I believe this is the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at a MAC baseball game,” stated MAC coach Jim Gerwitz. “Our Homecoming crew did a great job in promoting it.”
On offense the Cardinals produced their eight runs on only 13 hits. The Warriors outhit the Cardinals with 14, but could only muster three runs.
The Cardinals defense played nearly errorless ball over the 14 innings, turning five double plays in the process, and catching three runners stealing.
Blake Jones took the mound in the first game for Mineral Area and was roughed up at the start with two runs scoring in the first inning on two singles. A passed ball moved both runners into scoring position and a wild pitch scored one run with the second scoring on a ground-out.
From there Jones settled down and only a triple by Luke Koehn and a single in the fourth inning resulted in Rend Lake’s last score of the evening.
Jones was aided by two 4-6-3 double plays but also two third outs being recorded by catcher Aaron Miller who gunned down Rend Lake baserunners in the fourth and fifth innings.
“I can’t expect any more,” said Coach Gerwitz when asked about the team’s defense. “We played tremendous defense today.”
Down by two runs after the first inning, Mineral Area made up the difference in the second inning. Tyler Stahl got things started with a lead-off double. Ryan Hoffman and Miller both received free passes to first base. Brandon Crook singled in Stahl and Ryan Dickerman hit a sacrifice fly to score Hoffman.
The Cardinals took the lead in the third inning after Marty Clements led off with a single, stole second, reached third on a single by Stahl, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Kenny Pikula.
The Cardinals scored again in the fourth to retake the lead. A single by Dickerman and a double that traced the third-base line by Clements tallied the run. The Cardinals made the best of a walk to Hoffman in the fifth. A throw-away by the Warriors pitcher in trying to pick Hoffman off of first sent the speedy runner all the way to third base. Hoffman would later score on a Warriors error, their third in the game.
“Coach Gerwitz was pleased with his team’s ability to take advantage of Rend Lake’s errors. “Good teams capitalize on the other team’s mistakes,” said Gerwitz. “Today we played like a very good team.”
In the nightcap, Michael Hardin, Mineral Area’s only out-of-state recruit, pitched six innings and allowed only five balls hit out of the infield by Rend Lake batters. Hardin, who hails from New Hope, Minnesota, pitched a four hitter and was also helped out with three double plays for the shut-out.
Hardin turned the first double play in the first inning when he snared a line drive and tossed out the runner off of first base. The second DP came in the second inning with the tandem of shortstop Crook to second-baseman Joaby Sikes to Stahl at first, and in the sixth inning Sikes started the third one off to Crook covering second. Only two runners reached second base safely for the Warriors in the game.
Clements was 4-6 with a double, Dickerson was 3-5, and Stahl was 3-7 with a double.
In game one, Jones pitched five-and-two-thirds innings, allowing only three runs on seven hits, and walking two while striking out two batters. Drew Horrell pitched a third of an inning, and Luke Holland pitched the last inning and allowed no hits for the save.
In game two, Hardin pitched six innings, walked three batters and struck out three batters. Jeff Scott got the save, striking out two of the three batters he faced in the last inning
Mineral Area, 2-0, will play next on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at home against Southwestern Illinois. Rend Lake falls to 2-4 on the season.