BELFIELD - After going winless through the first two seasons of its program as well as the first three games of the 2019 campaign, the Heart River boys baseball team is starting to enjoy the taste of victory.
After capturing five of their last seven contests, the Cougars continued their winning ways during a doubleheader against Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton on Thursday, May 9, from the John J. Steiner American Legion Ball Park.
In game one, the home team used two lopsided innings en route to an 18-3 triumph. Early offense and strong pitching were the themes in game two, as Heart River came away with a 7-2 outcome in its favor. Each game was completed in five frames.
Through 12 games this season, the Cougars boast a 7-5 record.
"We're starting to actually do the little things better: field the ball, throw the ball, we're seeing the ball a little bit better at the plate," Heart River head coach Daren Kurle said. "We only had seven hits tonight (in the opener), but we're getting runs, still producing runs even with the groundouts, so that's helping. We're not striking out as much and cutting down on the errors has been huge."
The Cougars struck first in the bottom of the first, scoring a pair of runs on a misplay in the outfield and a passed ball to take a 2-0 lead. However, Heart River got its separation in the second and third innings, and it was done with patience.
Cardinals sophomore starting pitcher Peyton Hall struggled to get the ball over the plate, relinquishing five straight walks and two balks, leading to a six-run second inning where the Cougars brought 11 batters to the plate. Jack Sannes came in for Hall with one down in the second, but the junior had his troubles in the third, allowing four walks and hitting a batter.
"Today was one of those games," Kurle said. "They're like what we were two years ago with pitchers that struggle throwing strikes. I know a couple of their kids are now not playing anymore and are doing something else. It's tough when you have young kids trying to fill in. Fortunately for us, our young guys have been playing against older kids. They're used to it and now we're starting to see the progression from two years ago to now."
When the Cougars did swing their bats, they were selective. The person that was most effective with his cuts was sophomore Tyler White, as the catcher finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs scored.
"Before this game, I was doing bad in school, so I wasn't playing these last few games. I missed those, but before that, I wasn't doing too good at the plate," White said. "So today, I just focused my mindset on getting the bat to the ball and just trying to do my job as a hitter getting runners in."
Giving his team a 6-0 advantage, White hit a two-run single with the bases loaded. In the next frame, the sophomore again had a bases-loaded situation and delivered another RBI single. During the fourth, White clocked an RBI double.
"I sometimes do, but in games like these, I don't feel that much pressure. ... I'm just focused on trying to get the runs in and doing my job," White said of his approach with the bases full.
Not only were the Cougars getting production from White and the middle of the order but from No. 9 hitter Xander Krump as well. The sophomore infielder roped a three-run, RBI double into the left-field gap as part of a third inning where the home team brought 12 batters to the plate and scored eight runs.
On the hill, junior pitcher Ian Silbernagel was in control through much of his outing. Despite giving up four walks and three runs in the fourth, Silbernagel picked up the complete-game, nine-strikeout victory.
Like the previous contest, Heart River scored a run in every inning. That was more than enough support for pitcher Tarence Dillinger. The freshman hurler retired 11 of the first 12 Cardinals he faced. After Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton got two runs in the fourth, Dillinger retired the last six batters to finish his complete game.
Dillnger surrendered just three hits and a walk while striking out nine.
Heart River 18, Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton 3 (F/5)
WWCS 000 30 - 3 3 1
HR 268 2x - 18 7 2
WWCS: Peyton Hall (1.1), Jack Sannes (2.2) and Caden Germundson. HR: Ian Silbernagel (5.0) and Tyler White
W-Silbernagel. L-Hall. HR-None.
Highlights: WWCS: Germundson 1-2, BB, RBI, R; Trey Koski 1-1, BB, HBP, RBI. HR: White 3-4, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R; Austin Buckman 0-0, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 4 R; Xander Krump 1-1, 2B, BB, 3 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB; Silbernagel 0-2, 2 BB, 2 R, SB, 5 IP, 3 H, 8 BB, 3 ER, 9 K.
Heart River 7, Washburn-Wilton-Center-Stanton 2
WWCS 000 20 - 2 3 2
HR 321 1x - 7 8 3
WWCS: Tyler Kulzer (4.0) and Noah Olson. HR: Tarence Dillinger (5.0) and Braden Obrigewitch.
W-Dillinger. L-Kulzer. HR-None.
Highlights: WWCS: Landryn Miller 1-2, 2B, RBI, R; Peyton Hall 1-2, R. HR: Dillinger, 3 H, BB, 2 ER, 8 K, 1-2. 2B, BB, 2 R; Austin Buckman 2-3, RBI, R; Josiah Haverluk 1-3, 2 RBI.