Southeast sweeps season opener
It was cold outside, but nothing could cool off the red-hot Redhawks as Southeast opened the season with a three-game sweep of Western Michigan at Capaha Field.
Despite a mix of ice and snow hitting the area Friday, postponing the season opener, the teams managed to complete all three games in brisk conditions over the next two days. After part of Saturday was spent removing snow from the artificial playing surface, the teams began what eventually would turn into a 5-1 season-opening win for the Redhawks. Due to darkness, the game was completed Sunday and was followed by two more games, both ending in Southeast victories — 8-4 and 9-8.
A rarity occurred on Sunday as three games were decided in one day. Game 1 was suspended due to darkness in the 8th inning on Saturday, so the teams finished that one at 10 a.m. on Sunday, and then played two more at Capaha Field.
It was a late rally for Southeast in game 2 as the Redhawks were down 4-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth. That’s when Redhawk freshman catcher Austin Keck got his first collegiate hit, hitting a double to plate two and give Southeast a 5-4 lead. Junior shortstop Connor Basler put the game away for Southeast later in the inning with a bases-clearing double to give the Redhawks an 8-4 lead. Freshman pitcher Noah Niznik did not get the win but pitched spectacularly in his collegiate debut with six shutout innings. Senior Austin Sachse picked up the win, throwing three innings of shutout baseball to end it.
“We started four true freshmen in the second game, and they all contributed,” Redhawks coach Andy Sawyers said. “Our young guys are pretty talented, and that was fun to see those guys out there today.”
The third game was a tight, high scoring affair as the Broncos got it started with two runs in the top of the first. Southeast answered with three runs in the bottom of the second, courtesy of an RBI triple by freshman designated-hitter Brett Gonzalez and a two-RBI double by redshirt-junior first baseman Austin Blazevic.
This series was the collegiate debut for Gonzalez, and he made his mark. He started each game and went 5-for-11 over the weekend, with an RBI in each game.
Western Michigan went back up 5-3 on a three-run home run by senior catcher Jesse Forestell in the top of the third. The Redhawks countered with two runs in the third inning, highlighted by a solo homer by junior outfielder Peyton Faulkner to tie the game at 5-5.
Southeast pushed two runs across in the fifth, on a pair of RBI doubles by sophomore catcher Wade Stauss and senior outfielder Devon Wilson. The Redhawks scored their final runs in the sixth courtesy of a two-run home run by Blazevic for a 9-6 lead. They held on for a 9-8 victory. Blazevic ended the game 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs. Senior Daniel Bergtholdt got the start and win pitching 5 1/3 innings giving up six runs, all earned with two walks and three strikeouts. Redshirt-junior Daniel Lloyd relieved him going 2 2/3 innings giving up two runs with one walk and two strikeouts. Senior Logan Winder came on the pitch the ninth and sat the Broncos down 1-2-3 with one strikeout for his first save of the season.
In the season opener Saturday, Redhawks junior Dylan Dodd spun a gem throwing 6 2/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball. However, Western Michigan redshirt-junior Jack Szott matched him pitch for pitch.
With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Southeast junior Danny Wright doubled home two runs. Southeast tacked on two more in the eighth on RBI singles by Wilson and freshman infielder Turner Fritts to go ahead 5-1. The play was suspended with the Redhawks batting in the bottom of the eighth. The squads came back and finished Sunday morning, with Southeast winning by that same margin. Dodd was relieved in the seventh by Winder who threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings giving up a hit and a walk but recording two strikeouts. Senior Aaron Stretch came on for the ninth inning and gave up a hit and a walk but ended up striking out the side to close out the game for Southeast.
“I think we saw a little bit of everything this weekend,” Sawyers said. “We got a lot of guys in the game and got to see a lot of guys do some different things, and obviously have the chance to win three baseball games as well, it was a pretty good weekend.”
Southeast is slated to have four games this week, all at Capaha Field. Tuesday, Feb. 19, the Redhawks will be in action against Harris-Stowe State before taking on Western Illinois in a three-game weekend series starting on Friday, Feb. 22.