Baseball ends losing skid against Yellowjackets
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The strain of a 6-18 season can be seen on the faces of the Pioneer baseball team. The young squad, which features 13 upperclassmen on the 30-man roster, has shown flashes of brilliance but is also plagued by rookie mistakes.
These qualities were on full display this weekend in the Pioneers’ losing three of four games to the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
“It’s little things,” Pioneers head coach Eric Frese said. “We left runners on third base with less than two outs. We had a couple wild pitches or passed balls. There are just little things we need to do to prevent runs.”
Saturday’s double header began with a 4-3 loss. The Yellowjackets jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the third inning. The Pioneers answered by loading the bases in the sixth inning but were only able to score two runners, cutting the lead in half. The Pioneers had men on second and third in the eighth, but only scored one.
Senior pitcher Bill Oppriecht was saddled with the loss, his fourth of the season.
The night cap of Saturday’s twin bill saw the Pioneers notch their first WIAC win this season with an 8-0 shutout. Sophomore pitcher Mike Boushley pitched seven innings, allowing just four hits and striking out seven. Fellow sophomore Trevor Hall closed the door, pitching two innings and striking out four.
Freshman third baseman George Jester III buoyed the offense, going 2-2 with two walks and two RBIs.
Sunday began with a blowout loss for the Pioneers, falling 12-5. After taking their first lead of the game in the fourth inning, the Pioneers allowed nine unanswered runs. The Pioneers scored one run in the bottom of the ninth.
Senior Adam Theis pitched 6.1 innings, allowing six runs, but the real damage came against the Pioneer bullpen. Junior Tyler Nelson allowed two runs in 1.2 innings of work and freshman Austin Daniels allowed four runs in the ninth, his only inning of work.
Jester again paced the offense, going 3-5 in the loss.
“I was feeling good at the plate,” Jester said. “I just cleared my mind out and hit.”
The freshman often finds himself batting in the third or fourth spot of the lineup, a spot reserved for the most effective hitters. This burden often affects less experienced players, but Jester the pressure off.
“I don’t see it as pressure; I’ve just got to do my job,” Jester said. “We’re a family here, so it’s more like I’m trying to make them proud.”
The final game of the weekend began in the same fashion Sunday’s game ended – the Pioneers found themselves in a 6-0 hole after the top of the first.
“We hit the ball well in the first game, but our hits just weren’t finding holes,” junior centerfielder Ryan Duva said. “It was only a matter of time before the runs started coming.”
That they did. After the lead expanded to 8-1, the Pioneers scored two runs each in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings to bring the score to 8-7. Duva was key in this rally, racking up three RBIs combined in the fourth and fifth innings.
“We took it one inning at a time and got back in to the game,” Duva said.
However, the Pioneers comeback was stopped just short, as the Pioneers left the bases loaded in the eighth inning and went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
One of the stars of the tight loss was junior pitcher Shane Murphy. Murphy relieved starting pitcher freshman Shane Sosinsky who allowed six runs after just two-thirds of an inning. Murphy pitched the remaining 8.1 innings, allowing just two runs and striking out seven.
“Shane threw outstanding,” Frese said. “He did a really good job of giving us a chance and keeping us in the game.”
Duva also cited the defense as a crucial element in the win.
“Team defense is our strong suit. When we play good defense, it gives us a good chance to stay in games,” Duva said. “We need to keep doing that, and sooner or later, it’s going to come together, and we’ll win some games.”
The Pioneers host home double headers Saturday and Sunday against University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Games are scheduled for noon and 3 p.m. on both days.