Indians manufacture win over Benton in Baseball season opener
(L-R) Indians Charly Mercier, Klayton Donoghue and Ryan Myers high five at the end of Monday's season opening victory for Du Quoin. (Doug Daniels Photo)
By Doug Daniels
1351sports.com / duquoinsports.com
March 13, 2018
(Du Quoin, Ill.) - Du Quoin got off on the right track in Monday's baseball season opener, coming from behind to defeat Benton 3-2 at the Ballpark at DHS.
"I was proud of them for staying it in, bearing the weather, first game jitters and all that stuff," said first-year DHS head coach Kyle Geiger. "It was good to get out here and move around a little bit. There was a lot going on that game. We were excited, couldn't be prouder for the first game."
Hank Stewart closed out the game on the mound with four shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk to pick up the victory in relief of Bryzn Witcher, who was strong in three innings of work, allowing two earned runs on five hits.
"I knew our defense was good behind me, I only threw two curve balls those last two innings," Stewart said. "The defense made plays, we kept it down in the zone and let the defense make plays. The outfield made some great plays, had a nice double play to end it. I didn't pick up a baseball much in the offseason so it was nice to be able to throw some strikes."
Witcher had similar comments, pitching for the first time since the latest of multiple arm injuries he has endured throughout his career.
"I've been working all winter, in the offseason I suffered another injury," said Witcher. "It was good, I came out throwing good, hopefully I can keep it going. (I just wanted to) keep the ball down, keep the hits to a minimum."
Geiger was particularly pleased with his hurlers' ability to keep the ball down in the zone and work ahead in the count.
"(Stewart and Witcher) both (pitched well)," Geiger said. "Bryzn, coming off of last year when he had a little bit of arm problems, they both threw very well. That's kind of been our focus is keeping the ball down and good things will happen. I think they both threw very well for their first outing. They didn't get behind in the count, always worked ahead, which is always a plus. We got some first-pitch outs to help with the pitch count."
The Rangers struck first, getting a run on two hits in the top of the first inning, then the Indians fired back with a run in the bottom half after singles from Stewart and Charley Mercier.
Benton reclaimed the lead in the third after a leadoff double, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly, but Stewart would enter the following inning and keep the Rangers off the board the rest of the way.
In the bottom of the fourth, Ashton Smith singled and later scored on Will Woodside's RBI base hit to tie the game at 2-2. An inning later, Alex Zimmerman led off with a single for the Indians, then came in the to score after Mercier singled, Tevin Lee singled, and a fielder's choice by Smith put DHS on top to stay.
"I just knew with a guy on third I had to do my job," Smith said. "Couldn't pop it up in the infield, so I just did my best to put the ball in play and beat out the double play."
For the game, Stewart (1-2, R, 2 BB), Zimmerman (2-4, R), Mercier (1-3), Lee (1-3, RBI), Smith (1-3, R, RBI, Woodside (2-3, RBI), and WIcher (1-2, BB) each had hits for the Indians. With the exception of Zimmerman's run scored, the rest of the scoring - as well as the pitching - came from by Geiger's seniors.
"With this group and the amount of seniors we have, I told them from the get-go that's what they needed to be is senior leaders, play one pitch at a time, stay locked in," Geiger said. "We got a great showing from our seniors today. WIll Woodside with a huge hit to score Ashton. Just a couple things to clean up, but first game, we can live with that."
This Saturday, the Indians will welcome Vienna and Marissa to Du Quoin for a round robin tournament.
(Photos by Doug Daniels / DuQuoinSports.com)