WILMINGTON – It was hard for Coal City coach Jerry McDowell to find anything wrong with the Coalers’ performance after Friday’s 10-0, five-inning Interstate Eight Conference win over Wilmington.
“This was a nice, solid win for us,” he said after his team gave him his 16th 20-win season in his 20 years as Coalers’ coach. “We are really getting our all-around game to come together. The pitching has been good, the defense has been good and we’ve been hitting well.”
That hitting was on display early as the visiting Coalers (20-5, 8-2) scored six runs in the top of the first inning. D.J. Budde started things off with a single and, an out later, Brad Littleton and Joe Quinn each walked to load the bases. It was the first of four walks on the day for Littleton, who ended up scoring three runs.
Ricky Collins then blooped a single to right to score Budde before Nick Micetich doubled to left-center, scoring both Littleton and Quinn for a 3-0 lead.
A wild pitch scored Collins to make it 4-0 during a walk to Shawn Greiner. Matt Gubelman followed with a single that scored Micetich for a 5-0 lead and Jake Brnca walked to load the bases, chasing Wilmington starter Tom Hatton.
R.J. Van Duyne relieved Hatton and retired Budde on a fielder’s choice that scored Greiner to make it 6-0 before Dillon Seijka flew out to right to end the inning.
The big lead made things a bit easier for Coalers starter Jared Skubic, who gave up three hits in three innings before giving way to Jake Piper for the final two. Skubic struck out one and did not walk a batter, while Piper didn’t give up a hit, struck out two and walked one.
Wilmington’s biggest threat came in the bottom of the second. With one out, Steve Smock and Brett McWilliams each singled, but the next two batters were retired, and the injury-riddled Wildcats (12-10, 5-5) had only one runner reach second the rest of the way.
“We’ve got three starters out, so our lineup is all over the place,” Wilmington coach Chad Farrell said. “You still have to hand it to Coal City. They hit the ball well. We weren’t kicking it and throwing it all over the place. We didn’t make any errors. We struggled a little bit to get ahead in the count and they put good swings on the ball.
“I know Tommy (Hatton) is better than he showed today and he will be fine. R.J. pitched well and got some outs and kept us in the game in the middle innings, and Cole Thompson threw OK when he was in there. We have to get those guys experience and let them throw. This was just one of those days. We didn’t play bad, but it’s tough when you’re down 6-0 right away.”
Van Duyne held Coal City scoreless in the second and, in the third, was hit in the leg by a line drive off the bat of Brnca and had to leave the game. Thompson got out of the inning before the Coalers scored three in the fourth and one in the fifth.
In the Coal City fourth, Littleton and Collins sandwiched walks around a hit by pitch by Quinn to load the bases. After a popup to short right, Greiner slugged an opposite-field double down the left-field line to score Littleton and Quinn. Gubelman followed with a dribbler in front of the plate and, when the throw went to first, Collins came in to score.
With one out in the fifth, Littleton walked, went to second on a single by Quinn and scored on a pinch-hit single by Jack Scerine.
“We had four games this week and we hit well in all of them,” McDowell said. “And, our pitching has only given up one earned run in the last five games.
“Jared Skubic had just pitched Monday, so we threw him a few innings today and Jake Piper threw a nice last couple of innings for us.”