MCDERMOTT — For any unit, rivalry games always add a little bit more juice to the fire.
And for the West Senators, that extra juice certainly showed from an offensive perspective.
Chris Rapp’s club accumulated 10 hits, drew five walks, and stole four bases on Wednesday afternoon, which allowed the West Senators to break away from a 4-4 tie early on in a SOC II rivalry battle with Northwest and claim its second victory of the year with a 15-5 victory over the Mohawks at Hegarty Field.
For Rapp, the victory is certainly a positive that his young squad can use as a boost going forward.
“Anytime you go on the road and get a win, that’s always a positive and a momentum-builder,” Rapp said. “We put 15 runs on the board, and that’s something that we’re really happy with, especially considering the fact that we are young. Our two sophomores on the mound (Dylan Bradford and Todd Williams) threw strikes, and we played some good defense tonight. That’s what we were looking for coming into the contest.”
As for J.M. Storer, his Mohawks are going to have to be more consistent from a fielding standpoint.
“It’s hard to overcome errors,” Storer said. “We gave up too many runs, and it’s hard to overcome giving up runs on routine plays. As far as our pitchers are concerned, a lot of them are going to pitch to contact, and when the batters make contact, we’ve got to make the plays, hands down.”
Over the first two innings of play, the contest looked as if it would come and go without much trouble, as starting pitchers Dylan Bradford and Garrett Swayne didn’t allow a hit through the first two innings of the rivalry affair.
But in the third inning of action, however, that all changed in a hurry.
After West’s Buster Boggs and Todd Williams led off the inning with a pair of singles, an infield error allowed Bradford to reach base to load the bases.
And even though the Senators’ Tre Patrick hit into a 3-2 groundout that forced Boggs out at home, the next batter, Garrett Hurd, rocketed a ball through the infield and to left, which scored Williams and Bradford. L.T. Maynard responded by putting together his own two-RBI base knock, which scored Patrick and Hurd, and put West up by a 4-0 tally after three innings of play.
“We just put together some clutch hits there at the right time,” Rapp said. “We were able to make things happen by stealing bases and getting bunts down, and a few key hits here and there allowed us to plate those runs. That makes us more aggressive when we do that, so I’m happy with it.”
Northwest, however, wasn’t phased. The Mohawks responded to West’s four-run output in the top of the third with their own four-run output in the bottom of the fourth, as Swayne, Zach Smith, and Aaron Maddy all drew walks to load the table up for Northwest.
And behind a Austin Mundhenk base knock that brought in a pair of runs, along with a 4-3 groundout by Garrett Rowe, and a clutch RBI single by Will Gillette with two gone, the Mohawks managed to erase the score in a matter of an inning and a half.
“We got a couple of runners on, and we got our heads up and got some confidence,” Storer said. “We put some runners across the plate, and we made good decisions on the basepaths in the fourth inning. However, there were also a couple of times during the game where we were caught sleeping on the basepaths, and that cost us. When we make smart decisions and choices on the field, we’re going to do good things. However, when we don’t, we’re not going to do good things. We’ve got to be able to overcome some of the things that we’re facing, and come back and win the game (against West) on Friday.”
But in a matter of a half-inning, West came right back — and completely erased any thought of the contest being a close affair.
First, it was a leadoff hit by Patrick and an infield error by Northwest. Then, it was a pair of walks drawn by Hurd and Maynard, all followed by another drawn walk by Cade Powell, which brought a run home.
However, of all of those at-bats, none of them were bigger than the at-bat that Cody Staggs put together. The right fielder followed up Powell’s efforts by blasting a ball to left en route to a bases-clearing triple. His efforts, along with Boggs’ base knock and RBI one batter later, along with a hit batter and an error, allowed West to turn a 4-4 tie in the middle of the fifth into a commanding 11-4 advantage by the end of the same stanza.
Staggs and Boggs, who batted in the seven and eight holes, respectively, went 5-for-6 with four RBI, four runs scored, and a stolen base in addition to Staggs’ triple — an amazing statline considering that the pair hadn’t even played high school baseball until the season started.
Boggs, in particular, was impressive. The senior designated hitter went 3-for-3 with a RBI, a walk, and two runs scored on the evening.
“Buster is a senior, and had never played baseball for me before until this year,” Rapp said. “Daggone it, I look at him all the time and say, ‘We could’ve been doing this the previous three years.’ It’s hard for a senior to come out and play, but he’s a good athlete, and his athleticism’s taken over. I can’t say enough about him. He’s worked really hard. I went by the field Sunday, and he and his Dad were working in the batting cages. What more can you ask for? It just shows that he’s wanting to do good for the team.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Northwest threatened to cut into the gap as a single by Mundhenk, an error, and a walk put two Mohawk runners on with one out in the frame. However, behind a brilliant pickoff move, Garrett Rowe was picked off at first base, and despite a single by Gillett and a wild pitch that scored Mundhenk, a 1-3 groundout was all that Williams needed to get out of the inning with minimal damage done to the scoreboard.
“Dylan and Todd pitched good for us, too,” Rapp said. “Dylan gave us four good innings on the mound, and Todd came in as a reliever, had command of his breaking ball, and made a key play in the sixth inning when he picked off (Garrett Rowe) at first base. You’ve got to get those outs. It’s early in the year, it’s getting dark, and you don’t want to get the game called because of darkness. That was the shot in the arm that we needed to finish the game off.”
And the shot in the arm showed in the seventh, as West capped off the affair by adding another four-spot in the game’s final frame. A leadoff base hit by Staggs, along with a drawn walk by Boggs and a nicely placed bunt by Williams allowed Bradford to drive in two more runs with his own base knock. A Garrett Hurd single loaded the bases, and Powell, along with Cade McNeil, supplied the final pair of runs by drawing a hit-by-pitch and a walk, respectively, to set the final score.
With both teams set to play each other again on Friday over on the West Side, Rapp and Storer know that both units must continue to work if improvements are going to be made between now and then.
“We’re going to work hard (on Thursday),” Rapp said. “We’re going to hit, take a lot of groundballs, ease off on the throwing because arms are a little tight this time of year, stretch out well, get some good hitting in, and field some, then focus on what we have to do for Friday.”
“We just have to refocus, come back, and play like I know we can play,” Storer said. “We can compete with West. We’re going to come back out tomorrow and work on some fielding situations. We’re going to groundball and flyball them to death, and hopefully, make some adjustments. We’ve just got to come back out Friday and make plays. That’s all it comes down to.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7