After a pair of Western Big 6 conference doubleheaders, the Moline baseball team sat at 0-4 in the conference and 5-6 for the season.|
Since then, the Maroons have rattled off eight-straight wins, including Saturday's 3-2, 2-1 sweep of rival United Township.
"We are playing well, eight games in a row. We aren't kicking the ball around and our pitchers are pitching the ball like they should." said Moline coach Craig Schimmel. "We need to cut down our strikeouts a bit, we need to put more balls in play against good pitchers. But, I think we are playing like we are capable."
The Maroons (13-6, 4-4 Big 6) got big days on the mound from their Appalachian State bound duo of Dallas DeVrieze and Matt Brill.
DeVrieze pitched the first game, surrendering six Panther hits while striking out eight batters and walking none.
The Panthers scored two first-inning runs off of DeVrieze with his pitching counterpart, Connor Gunneman, ripping a two-out single and scoring on Deryck Wessels' double a batter later. UT (6-10, 2-6 Big 6) added a run two innings later when Gunneman doubled in leadoff hitter Mitch Ellison to put the Panthers up 2-0.
The Panthers could have had more that inning, but courtesy runner Shane Spurgetis was caught in a rundown rounding third for the second out. Instead of having runners on second and third with one out, the inning was over a batter later when Wessels grounded out to DeVrieze.
The Maroons didn't take long to respond to the third-inning run. Marc Ashcraft, Moline's second batter in the third, singled for Moline's first base runner of the game and scored two batters later when Brill hammered an RBI double to center.
Pitchers then dominated until the bottom of the sixth when the Maroons struck again.Shortstop Drew Owens led off the sixth with a double and scored two batters later when DH Devin Struble doubled him in. The Maroons cashed in the go-ahead run when catcher Jake Viaene doubled in Struble two batters later.
"I was down 0-2, so I tried to keep it simple and keep the ball up the middle and (Gunneman) left it over the plate, so I did what I could with it." said Viaene.
The Panthers went down quietly in the top of the seventh, when DeVrieze struck out a pair. Logan McDanel had a chance at a hit, but lefty DeVrieze made a diving play on a grounder on the third base side of the mound to get the runner.
Game 2 was much of the same on the mound for the Maroons, in seven innings, the right-handed Brill gave up just one run, a first-inning RBI groundout by Gunneman, while striking out 12 and walking just one.
Moline worked hard to again come from behind in the nightcap, only tallying one hit through the first four innings against Wessels.
Walks proved to be Wessels's undoing, with both Maroon runs scoring by players who reached base via a free pass. Cal Moyer scored in the fifth after leading off the inning with a walk on a Brett Newberg RBI single.Moyer came through with the hit the next inning with what proved to be the game winner, scoring courtesy runner Brett Johnson, who was running for Viaene who worked a two-out walk.
Though his team came up short in two more nail-biters, UT coach Steve Yount sees improvement from his young Panther squad.
"We were much better today," said Yount, "We picked it, we pitched it, we put the ball in play. Moline made plays, too, and got a couple more hits than we did. Hats off to them. We can take positives from this one and hopefully get one next week."
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