By Blake Meacham–On the last weekend in February, the Morningside baseball team posted a 4-0 record against the Central Christian Tigers. The sweep started on Friday, Feb. 26, with two Mustang victories, with scores of 4-0 and 4-1.
The first game of the four-game series was carried by home runs from Nate DeChaine and Cole Chapin. The Mustangs started scoring in the top of the first inning when DeChaine walked and scored on a bases-loaded walk by Joe Genoways in a 10 pitch at bat. The Mustangs added to the lead when DeChaine singled in the top of the third and was eventually driven in by a two out single by Cole Chapin.
The game was blown open when Chapin hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, followed by a DeChaine home run in the seventh.
The Tigers, despite of senior starting pitcher Doug Vanacek and a veteran bullpen, never threatened the Mustangs with scoring. Vanacek went four full innings, allowing three hits and one walk. He was relieved by Jared Novotny, Jon Van Beek, and Lance Spongeberg, who only gave up two hits and struck out four combined.
In the nightcap, the Mustangs turned in an almost identical offensive and pitching performance, beating the Tigers 4-1.
The scoring got started for the Mustangs in the top of the first when Nate Dechaine blasted a solo home run with two outs. The score became 2-0 when DeChaine singled in the top of the third and was brought home by a two-out RBI single by Blake Rogers.The lead was extended further when Nolan Hoff scored on an error in the fourth inning and Joe Tourville was brought home on a sacrifice fly from Eric Salmonson. Tourville finished the nightcap going three for three with two stolen bases.
Cody Selig went four innings as the winning pitcher, giving up only two hits and tossing four strikeouts. Ross Ackerman and Kevin Bevilacqua allowed a combined three hits and one earned run. Lance Spongberg notched his second save of the season.
DeChaine was the offensive MVP for the day for Morningside, but he was slightly disappointed with the overall team performance at the plate.
“We put together the hits we needed to escape with two wins today, but it wasn’t the way we typically hit. We should have been putting up a dozen hits both games, but we just couldn’t execute,” said DeChaine.
The Mustangs came back with a spring in their step and their bats hot on a 75 degree Saturday afternoon, winning the first half of a doubleheader 20-3. The Mustang offense exploded for 20 runs on 19 hits, six of those coming from the long ball.
Joe Tourville belted a grand slam off of the scoreboard in left-center field, turning a 1-0 ballgame into a 5-0 game in the very first inning. The lead was extended to 12-2 in the third inning when David Foley launched a similar looking grand slam over the left field fences.
A barrage of home runs and extra base hits caused the rest of the scores. Blake Meacham went 3-5 in the game with a double, two home runs, and five RBIs. David Foley and Joe Tourville each had four RBIs all coming from their respective grand slams. Blake Rogers added three hits. Spencer Wyant and Nate DeChaine also added a home run each.
Starting Pitcher Lucas Henning earned the win for the Mustangs, and Kevin Bevilacqua, Ricky Mitchell, and Aaron Homme pitched in relief. Combined, they gave up three runs on five hits. They also combined for four walks and eight strikeouts.
The last game of the series proved to be the closest, as Central Christian fought hard to avoid the weekend sweep.
The scoring started in the top of the first inning when Nate DeChaine singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch, making the score 1-0. After the Tigers plated two in the bottom of the first, Nolan Hoff led off the second inning with a solo blast over the left field wall, tying the game at two.
In the fourth inning, Morningside was losing 3-2 until an Elliot Conover sacrifice fly and a suicide squeeze by Jake Lamoreux gave the Mustangs a 4-3 lead.The lead was short lived, as the Tigers had their own successful suicide squeeze in the bottom of the fourth, tying it at four.
Neither team scored again until the top of the seventh, when senior Cole Halgerson delivered a clutch two-out RBI single to make the score 5-4 heading into the bottom of the last inning. Lance Spongberg pitched the final two innings for the Mustangs, allowing no runs and one hit while striking out one. Spongberg’s efforts gave him the pitching win.
“It’s tough to go on the road to someone’s home field and win four in a row. Tough teams do just that, though, and we’re a really tough team this year,” said Head Coach Brian Drent after the final game.
“Everyone is stepping up in some way and making an impact. It’s fun to watch and be a part of,” confirmed Junior catcher Eric Salmonson.
The Mustangs will hit the road to Los Angeles for Spring Break next week and start playing games on March 7.