It took 10 innings to decide the baseball team’s fall ball opener Friday as the younger Maroon team edged out the veteran Gold team 4-3.
Central Michigan head coach Steve Jaksa was pleased with his team’s first game performance and also saw some room for improvement.
“The biggest thing is I thought we competed pretty good and I’m pleased with that … the guys worked really hard,” Jaksa said. “Overall, I thought they had good game plans and were aggressive.”
The game started with a five-inning pitching duel as sophomores Sean Renzi and Jordan Foley battled, racking up 16 strikeouts combined. Renzi pitched seven innings and struck out eight batters, while Foley fanned eight over 6 1/3 innings.
The Gold team struck first in the bottom half of the fifth. Junior Noel Santos hit a double to deep left field, scoring senior Jonathon Nelson from second to take a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth inning, the Gold team scored again with a solo home run to left field from sophomore Tyler Huntey.
Jaksa said he saw some hitters trying to do too much in certain situations and not taking what the pitching was giving them. He said it’s all about growing players’ confidence over time in order to understand what the opposing pitcher is trying to do.
“It takes time to know what your ability can do in certain situations, and hopefully, as their confidence grows, it will help their approach at what the pitcher is trying to do in those same situations,” he said. “You can learn if you’re not playing … once those guys get the opportunity to play, that’s what we need to see is what they learned.”
Foley was replaced by freshman Taylor Lehnert, who pitched 3 2/3 innings while striking out seven hitters.
Jaksa said he could see that his team enjoys competing against each other this time of the year and learning as a group.
“I think its like any team … you’re going to have that internal motivator that really wants you to play well, and we want this type of atmosphere,” he said. “It was pretty competitive and hard fought. We want to see how they react to this kind of atmosphere, and they have to grow as a team and sort some things out.”
The Maroon team scored their first run of the game in the seventh inning after a ball was hit to center off the bat of senior Kyle Henris, scoring freshman Logan Regnier. The squad came back with two more run in the eighth when a throwing error scored senior Tom Lalley, and sophomore Pat MacKenzie scored from third on a wild pitch.
Redshirt freshman Blake Louscher took over the pitching duties in the bottom of the ninth for the Maroon team. Louscher pitched two innings while striking out four batters. The Gold team came back to tie it up after freshman Adam Collins hit a line drive to third base for an infield single, scoring sophomore Nick Regnier.
The winning run was scored in the top–half of the tenth innings when freshman Morgan Oliver hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Henris.
The Maroon and Gold will face off again at noon Saturday for the second game in the annual Fall World Series. Junior Joe Ucho will start for the Gold team, while sophomore Matt Trowbridge will get the nod for the Maroon squad.