Bloodhounds broom Washington
Washington struggled to get base hits off of Fort Madison pitchers Jordan Brecount, Miles Wentzien and Billy Coppage in Thursday’s Southeast Conference baseball doubleheader at Dick Sojka Memorial Field, and the Bloodhounds swept the Demons by scores of 2-0 and 6-1.
The Demons mustered just four hits on the night.
“We need to hit. It comes down to that,” Washington head coach Nathan Miller said of his team’s struggles on Thursday.
Brecount had a no-hitter going through the first 6 2/3 innings of the opening game of the twin bill. He only allowed three baserunners during that time, issuing a walk to Washington junior Elijah Wood and hitting sophomore Blake Weidman twice. He struck out seven batters.
“He pitched great,” Fort Madison sophomore Miles Wentzien said of Brecount. “He kept the hitters off balance and pretty much kept them in check.”
But with two outs in the sixth inning, Brecount walked Washington senior Austin Witt, gave up a single to senior Ezra Graber and hit junior Mason Quigley with a pitch to load the bases. That prompted Fort Madison head coach Rich McGhghy to make a pitching change, and Wentzien got Washington senior Kyle Roder to fly out to right field to end the inning.
The Demons again loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth inning, but Wentzien struck out Witt to keep the game scoreless.
Fort Madison junior Riley Basham drew a leadoff walk to start the ninth inning, but Washington pitcher Jake Dickinson got the next two Bloodhounds to fly out. Then Dickinson got senior Ryan Snaadt, Fort Madison’s No. 9 batter, to hit a ground ball to third base. The ball took a late hop on freshman Michael Ellingson, who was playing in his first varsity game, and skipped off the tip of his glove. Basham scored on the error to give the Bloodhounds a 1-0 lead, and Fort Madison later added a second run on senior John Nagel’s single.
“It was just a tough hop,” Miller said of Ellingson’s error. “He took his eyes off of it a little early before making the grab. It’s a tough position getting his first varsity experience, but it didn’t come down to that. Everybody looks at the last play, but there were so many other opportunities prior to that play that are countless that could have won us the game.”
As an example, Miller pointed to the nine runners his team left on base in the opening game.
“We had ample opportunities,” he said. “I can probably count 10 opportunities in the first game that we had a chance to plate a run, and in that case we only needed one run. There was a hit batter, swinging at a fastball six inches out of the zone, to just trying to muster up a seeing-eye single to the outfield. There were a lot of missed opportunities tonight in that first game.”
The Demons were also unable to take advantage of a solid outing by Wood, who threw eight scoreless innings. He scattered six hits, struck out three batters and walked three.
“You’d like to see some more hits out of us, but Elijah threw pretty good,” McGhghy said. “He had us off balance and basically we couldn’t string any [hits together]. We’d get guys on base, but then he’d bow his neck and get the out that he needed. That’s what good pitchers do. So far, of the two conference teams that we’ve faced, he’s the best pitcher that we’ve seen.”
Wentzien, who said it was a relief to finally break the scoreless tie and take the lead, retired the Demons in order in the bottom of the ninth inning for the win. He allowed just one hit in 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win. He struck out two batters and walked two.
“I didn’t want another stressful inning,” Wentzien said. “[They had] the bases loaded two innings in a row, and we didn’t give up any runs. That’s kind of taxing.”
Still, Wentzien took the hill to start the second game of the doubleheader. He also got the win in the nightcap, allowing one run on just two hits in six innings. He struck out six batters and walked five.
Washington scored first when Quigley scored on a wild pitch in the third inning, but the Bloodhounds drew four walks in the top of the third inning to score five runs.
“We finally started being patient,” McGhghy said. “They helped us out. We finally took advantage and got some runs on the board.”
The Bloodhounds added a run in the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly by junior Collin Eaves. Meanwhile, the Demons weren’t able to generate any more offense. Graber, Roder, Wood and junior Jacob Green accounted for Washington’s four hits on the night.
“With the exception of one inning, we matched them pitch for pitch the entire night. We matched them defensively the entire night. It came down to being able to get timely base hits,” Miller said. “We need guys to step up throughout the lineup with guys on base and get a hit. We had too many strikeouts [tonight].”
The Demons, who have lost four of five after a 5-0 start, are now 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the conference.
“We battled ourselves a little bit tonight,” Miller said. “We’re Washington Demons, but we had our own inner demons a little bit tonight. We kind of got down on ourselves a little bit, not to the point that we were mad, but we were frustrated. I could tell the kids were frustrated. But we’ll hammer back at it in the cages tomorrow.”
Fort Madison picked up a big road sweep to improve to 7-6 overall and 4-0 in the SEC.
“We went down and played Keokuk, and we swept them, but you’re still kind of wondering what do you really have,” McGhghy said. “Washington’s always tough. They’re well coached. They’re always solid defensively. The bad things is, that’s what got them in the first game. But nine times out of 10 they make that play and it stays tied.”