After being snowed out in their first three games of the season, the Ichabods thought they’d make up for the layoff by playing 32 innings in two days.
The Bods finally opened the 2008 season more than a week after its scheduled start with three games at Drury. Friday WU won 6-3 in 14 innings, but the dreams of an amazing 53-0 perfect season were shattered the next day with two losses in a doubleheader.
Zach Engelken pitched the first seven innings as the opening day starter, and gave up three runs before being relieved by Brett Sorensen, who pitched eight shutout innings and struck out five to pick up the win.
“We had some really good pitching,” said shortstop Tyler Blankenship. “It was a good all-around game for us to start the season.”
Catcher Kameron Casel, a freshman playing in his first college game, led the team, going 3 of 7 with two runs and two RBIs. Blankenship picked up where he left off after a solid freshman season, also getting three hits and a pair of walks.
The Bods gave up a run in the second inning and didn’t score until the sixth inning when Casel and first baseman Luis Beltran Lopez crossed the plate to take a 2-1 lead. Drury answered with two runs of its own in the sixth to regain a 3-2 lead, and WU scored once more to tie the game in the seventh.
Sorensen then entered the game and held Drury scoreless for the second half of the extended game. No runs were scored until the 14th, when Joe Hosey, Calvin Iversen and Casel added runs to double up the score on the Panthers.
“It feels good to start the season with a win,” said Iversen. “It’s good to get that first one under your belt and start out positive.”
Danny Cook pitched game two for the Bods, giving up seven runs in the first four innings, putting the Bods out of the game with a 7-0 deficit. WU cut the lead down to four with three runs in the fifth inning, but Drury scored two more off reliever J.P. Verhulst in the bottom of the fifth to put the Bods out of striking distance once again.
“We just had a hard time getting anything going early in the game,” said Iversen. “We made a little bit of a run later, but their offense was just batting real well today.”
Beltran and centerfielder Brian Gorges each hit home runs in the game’s last two innings, but both came with no runners on base, and were not enough for the Bods to rally in a seven inning, 9-5 loss.
“Wes [Joy] has been sick for awhile, so that’s a huge part of our offense we didn’t have today,” said Blankenship. “He’s one of our best offensive players, so it’ll help us once he’s back and healthy.”
Game three was the highest scoring in the series, and also the most dramatic. In inning 11, with the score tied 11-11, Drury’s Justin Skinner led off with a walk-off home run to beat the Bods for the second time in one day, and give the Bods a 1-2 record.
Bryan Stroth, the starting pitcher for the Bods, had the same problems Cook did in the day’s earlier game. After allowing nine earned runs in just three and a third innings pitched, Stroth was pulled from the game for reliever Curtis Hamilton. Unlike game two, the WU offense hung around with the Panthers by scoring 11 runs of their own between the second and fifth innings.
With an 11-9 run in the sixth, Hamilton gave up two runs, neither of which were earned. After Drury tied the score at 11, neither team got on the scoreboard until Skinner hit the game-winning blast.
“It’s always tough to lose a game like that,” said Iversen. “Any loss is hard, but to lose in extra innings on a home run just makes it that much more difficult.”
Andrew Miller, who pitched well through four shutout innings, gave up the homer and was charged with the loss.
“We really want to go out and win more series this year,” said Blankenship. “Last season it seemed like we’d win game one and then lose the next two or three. If we want to finish above .500 this year we need to make sure we in two or three each time out.”
Barring yet another snowstorm, the Bods will finally play their home opener against Rockhurst University on Tuesday. The doubleheader begins at 2 p.m., and will be the debut of Falley Field’s new FieldTurf infield.
“We’re looking forward to playing on the new field,” said Blankenship. “It should be a big advantage once we adjust to it, and get to practice on it now that all the snow’s melted.”