Wamego head baseball coach Jerry Johnson got a pleasant surprise on Tuesday.
The Red Raiders opened their season with a 13-3 run rule-shortened win over Royal Valley.
The run rule goes into effect if a team is up by 10 or more runs after five innings.
“We had no idea what we were going to look like, so any time you can start off with a 10-run rule job when you’re not really sure what you have, you’ve got to be kind of happy.”
Wamego fielded eight new starters. The only returner, starting pitcher Andrew Rogers, played right field last year.
“I was pleased that he threw five complete innings and basically didn’t give up a lot,” Johnson said. “He threw strikes and for the first time out, I thought he looked good.”
Rogers picked up the win and pitched all five innings for Wamego, giving up three runs (two earned) on four runs. He gave up just one hit after the second inning.
Despite Wamego’s wide margin of victory, the teams traded spurts of offense to start the game. Both teams’ leadoff hitters recorded singles and came around to score in the first inning.
Royal Valley put up two runs to take the lead back in the second inning on a two-RBI single by Tim Martin, but that was it for the Panthers. Martin had a solid day at the plate, going 2 for 3 with two singles and two RBIs. He was the only Panther to record multiple base hits.
“All we do is coach them and tell them to keep plugging away,” Johnson said. “The last inning doesn’t mean diddly, its’ the next inning that counts, so we just tell them what they need to do, and they went out and did it.”
Wamego responded in the bottom of the frame with a two-RBI single by Blake Arria, Wamego’s leadoff hitter. Arria had a strong outing, too, finishing 3 for 4 with a triple and four RBIs.
The Red Raiders tacked on two more runs in the third on a two-RBI single by shortstop Adler Pierson and one in the fourth before exploding for seven runs in the fifth inning.
Catcher Nathan Morris led off with a single and came home on a hit by Pierson. An RBI single by Jeremy Fritz plated Dylan Riniker, who reached on an error, and set up Arria’s triple. He came around to score on Griffin McLemore’s double on the next at bat.
The Red Raiders were swinging at a lot of high pitches. Johnson said that was partially because of the strike zone but thinks their aggressive approach paid off.
“You’re not going to put up 13 runs by going up there looking for a walk,” he said. “I was happy with that part.”
Aside from Arria, McLemore, Morris and Pierson had multi-hit games. McLemore went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, Morris finished 2 for 3 with two hits and the final RBI in the fifth inning and Pierson went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
Martin, Royal Valley’s starting pitcher, went 4.1 innings in the loss, giving up eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits. He was lifted for John Ehrhart, who gave up five runs on five hits and struck out one.
Johnson knows his teams’ work isn’t done.
“We’ll probably play better teams,” he said. “We’ll probably play worse teams, but they looked good. They made plays. I think we had a couple errors, but other than that, when they gave us a chance to get an out, we got it.”
Royal Valley 10, Wamego 5
After a strong performance in the first game, Wamego (1-1) dropped the second game of its season-opening doubleheader with Royal Valley, 10-5. Pierson took the loss for the Red Raiders. Arria added a hit in the second game, finishing the night with four base hits. Rogers, Fritz and Reid Jones also finished the night with three base hits.