The Western Boone baseball team knew it was going to be a tough challenge in the season opener, Monday, March 26, as they faced Class 4A No. 6-Zionsville.
The game ended up being as tough as expected, with the Eagles scoring 10 runs in the second inning and cruising to a 20-2 win.
“Overall we did all right,” Western Boone head coach Dustin Cunningham said. “We threw three guys that hadn’t thrown any varsity innings before. Overall they did their job. We still have things to tighten up. We missed a couple of signs, didn’t field some balls we normally get, but we have guys in different positions as well. We played 13 guys, and eight had never played varsity. Good experience for them to get out there and get those first game jitters out.”
Zionsville head coach John Zangrilli said he was able to get everyone on the bench in the game and the effort from practice carried over into the game.
“It has been a great season so far,” he said. “Our season started two weeks ago, as far as I am concerned, when we started with practice. But today was the first time we got to compete against somebody else, which is nice. We have 13 guys on the roster and we probably are not going to expand it. We are going to go out and let everybody have an opportunity to play and compete. We got everyone in today, which is nice and everyone is settling in to their roles.”
Zionsville scored twice in the first inning on singles from Troy Kuhn and Parker Dunshee.
After Mic Richey retired the Stars in order in the bottom of the first, the Eagles put the game away in the second.
Harrison Farber singled to lead off the inning, and after a flyout, Ben Kocher, Kuhn and Dunshee hit three-straight singles to chase Stars’ Starter Tyler Squibb and score two runs.
Things continued to go the Eagles’ way when Joel Trewartha, Ryan Bertram and Cameron Richey were all hit by pitches, loading the bases and leading to two more runs.
After Nick Barrientos walked to force in a run, a wild pitch and a 2-run double by Farber made it 10-0. Farber and Drew Small eventually scored on an error to make it 12-0 after two.
While the inning was impressive, Zangrilli wouldn’t say the Eagles played perfectly.
“We have a good ball club and a good group of seniors,” Zangrilli said. “But I have a note card in my pocket and I will say I have four or five things written down. So it wasn’t perfect; we still have some stuff to work on.”
A one-out home run by Bertram in the third made it 13-0 before Western Boone came back with a run in the third.
Quintin Martin reached on a drop-third strike and advanced two batters later when T.J. Wilson walked. Two batters later Squibb hit a deep double to left-center — the Stars first hit of the game — to plate Martin.
Kocher scored on an error in the top of the fourth, but the Stars matched it with Tyler Hale drove in Braxton Porter with a double.
Cunningham said that his team has a lot of pride and wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
“Our guys are athletes as well,” Cunningham said. “Even if we don’t have the natural ability of the Zionsville guys have and we definitely haven’t played as many games as them, but no one wants to get shutout, no one wants to give in. These guys are fighters and we had two really good weeks of practice so far. I have only had to jump on them twice in two weeks. They are taking this seriously and with all the young guys, you will see a bunch of improvement as the year goes on.”
Zionsville added six two-out runs in the fifth to end the scoring.
Three Zionsville pitchers — Mic Richey, Travis Tokarek and Dunshee — combined on the two-hitter. Zangrilli was interested to see how Richey and Tokarek threw against varsity competition and will continue to platoon pitchers early in the season.
The trio struck out 12 Star batters. The thing that bugged Cunningham the most about the strikeouts was the fact that the Stars struck out looking six times.
“I don’t care whether we face someone who throws underhand or someone who throws 90 mph like Dunshee, you have to go out and put the ball in play,” Cunningham said. “And we went down looking quite a few times. That was disappointing, because we preach that you can’t go down looking.”
The Eagles will be back in action Thursday when they travel to Danville.
Zangrilli said the main thing they will want to improve on is baserunning.
“The reads, reacts, things that should come naturally to good baseball teams always seem to go away over winter,” he said. “We are going to keep on working on that.”