Demon baseball picks up crucial conference wins over Panthers
Washington baseball’s ace got plenty of work on the mound on Thursday night, just not in his normal role.
Elijah Wood came from the bullpen for the first time all season for the Demons, and on senior night, he was able to close both games of the doubleheader against Mt. Pleasant, as the Demons picked up two wins against their rival.
“I liked it a lot,” Wood said. “I only was coming off two days’ rest, but I enjoyed coming in at the end. My mentality was a little different, and I haven’t done that at all this year. I did it a lot my junior year and I like closing out games like that.
“It’s awesome that we swept Mt. Pleasant the last time I see them my senior year, especially on senior night. It gets us back in the conference race and to be able to close it out, it’s great.”
Mt. Pleasant was only a couple of outs away from preventing the big innings that Washington was able to use to get the victory, as a four-run inning in game one and a three-run inning in game two was the difference for each game.
“This has been our story all year,” Mt. Pleasant head coach Brent Broecker said. “We seem to give teams extra outs, and when we do they always capitalize. We have to correct that, and defensively, we did a lot better job in the second game, but once again the balls we need to get outs on, we aren’t doing right now.”
For Washington, these two wins put them right in the middle of the conference title race, as they trail Fairfield by two games, with a doubleheader against the Trojans coming up later this week in Washington.
“We gained confidence and gained momentum in the direction we want toward the tail end of the season,” Washington head coach Nathan Miller said. “We want to be playing our best baseball when it counts and we need to continue that right on to postseason play. I feel like we had that tonight.”
In the first game, Washington struck first as senior Tanner Knupp scored on a passed ball to give the Demons a 1-0 lead.
Mount Pleasant tied it up with a solo-homerun by Colton Schinstock in the top of the third inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Demons struck big with a four-run inning, highlighted by a three-run homerun by senior Walker Breard, who finished the doubleheader with five RBIs.
“Just seeing these guys twice a year, and I had seen (Mt. Pleasant starter Dustin Amos) multiple times last game, and got his stuff down pretty good this time,” Breard said. “I just thought I’d lay on that first curveball and see what happens.”
The Panthers added a run in the top of the fifth, but Wood came in and shut the game down, giving Washington the 5-2 win.
In the second game, Mt. Pleasant struck for two runs in the top of the first inning, but in the bottom of the second, Washington answered.
A double by Knupp and a walk by Jacob Green led to Breard finding the gap in right-center field for a two-RBI double to tie things up.
Mt. Pleasant took the lead again in the top of the fourth, but the Demons had another answer in them.
Washington loaded the bases, and ended up plating three in the frame to complete the 5-4 victory.
“We had to jump on them early,” Broecker said. “Wood’s a tough kid (to hit against at the end) and we only put up two runs on (Zach Londberg) in the first game, and three runs on (Michael Gier) in the second game.”
Wood tossed a total of 4 2/3 innings from out of the bullpen on the night, giving up one hit, three walks and struck out seven in the tail end of both games, something the Demons could be using later on in the postseason.
“You just don’t know how the postseason is going to go,” Miller said. “Elijah will pitch game one for us, but for game two, do we go with Zach or do we go with Elijah again? We might lean toward Elijah to close that game out. Tonight gave him the experience to come out of the pen in case we need to use him in that situation.”
Mt. Pleasant will host Fairfield in a doubleheader on Monday night, while Washington will take on Oskaloosa on Tuesday.