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Moline baseball takes season opener against United Township

Moline baseball takes season opener against United Township

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685 days.

That's how long it had been between at-bats for the Moline baseball team, who started off the 2021 season with a 4-2 nonconference win over Western Big 6 Conference rival United Township on Tuesday. 

The Maroons last played in the 4A Bloomington Sectional semifinal, a 6-5 11-inning loss to Normal West that ended the season for Moline. There was significantly less drama in the season opener against the Panthers, but everyone was just as excited to get back out on the field.

"It was fun to get back out there tonight, and more fun to come away with the win," Moline coach Craig Schimmel said. "We need to get back into the routine and relearn everything we've forgotten how to do in the extended break. It's good to get back to a sense of normality."

Moline took the lead early in the bottom of the first inning when the first four batters reached base. Hunter Woods led off the game with a single and advanced to second on a dropped ball behind the plate. Jeff Davis followed with a single that advanced Woods to third.

Senior Ryne Schimmel got a single up the gut to score Woods and two fielder's choice groundouts from Davis Hoffstatter and Seamus Boyle scored Davis and Schimmel, respectively, for a 3-0 lead.

In the top of the second inning, it was a Murphy's Law frame for the Maroons when everything that could go wrong did. UT's Davin Thiem reached first on a throwing error from Schimmel and then made it to third base on another throwing error. Thiem scored on a fielder's choice ground out from Alijah Dominguez.

Later, Donny Jaramillo reached first base on a fluke single where the ball hit the first base bag and bounced up about 15 feet into the air. After advancing on a dropped ball to second base, Jaramillo scored on an RBI single from Julio Tapia.

While the ball definitely bounced the right way for United Township in the top of the second, Panthers coach Mike Meyers felt that the play evened out across the field.

"Their lead off hit had a similar long infield single feel," Meyers said. "I'm happy the ball went our way in that inning, but I think it all evened out at the end of the day. That's baseball for you."

Not making any excuses for his squad, Schimmel noted that the long absence and the excitement of being back out on the field may have caused some of the early sloppy play.

"It's the first time out in nearly two years, and I'm sure the guys had some first-game butterflies," Schimmel said. "The command from our pitchers could have been better and hopefully they can trust the defense more throughout the season."

Three Moline pitchers — Hoffstatter, winner Maddux Dieckman and Woods — held the Panthers to just three hits but recorded just four strikeouts while allowing seven walks and hitting one batter.  

Woods, who got the Maroons started on offense, came in to close the game for the final four outs and said he was just happy to be out on the field again. Getting the win was even better.

"It felt good to get out here with my buddies and pull off the win," Woods said. "It's a great group of guys to play with and even though we have stuff to work on, it felt good to get the win."

The senior pitcher and outfielder went 1-for-4 at the plate and nailed down the save, but only after making it tough on himself. Woods, who pitched the final inning and a third, walked the bases loaded in the seventh and struck out two before enticing a game-ending groundout. 

Even though the Panthers came out on the losing end of the game, Meyers was happy that his team was finally able to take the field again.

"It's been a long time coming, and it's good that we were able to get out there and compete with our friends down the street," Meyers said. "Everyone is just happy to get out on a field and play."

Schimmel hopes that his team can stay rolling with the momentum from this win.

"It was really exciting to get out there again tonight," said Schimmel, who was 2-for-2 with a run scored and an RBI. "Getting the momentum going in the first inning was good and led to us being more confident on defense. Getting the win in our first game back is nice and hopefully we can keep going."

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