With the weather finally improving, the Benton Rangers baseball team (1-0) was finally able to open its 2017 spring season Wednesday afternoon at Benton Park against the Centralia Orphans.
With half of the varsity basketball team on the baseball team, the Rangers hoped to avenge their sectional championship loss to the Orphans.
The baseball team, led by starting pitcher junior Hamilton Page, came out firing on all cylinders and took a 17-7 slaughter rule victory over the Orphans in six innings.
"It worked out pretty well," Rangers' coach Brett Blondi said of the weather delay. "The other guys Tyson, Brett, Bryden and Ian worked hard. The basketball guys are a nice compliment to the team so I was glad to have them back.
When asked if the outcome of the game against the Orphans was what he expected, Blondi said: "No, it did not expect them to hit the ball as well as they did… hopefully they continue to go up there and hit well."
Page set the tone for the game in the first inning, striking out the first three Orphans' hitters to defend the diamond.
The home team took their turn at the home plate, starting with senior Derek Oxford who kept his eye on the ball and walked to first base. He made it around to third base after a base hit from Gehrig Wynn.
With Tyson Houghland at the plate, the Orphans' pitcher threw a wild pitch and brought Oxford across the plate for the first run of the season. Houghland ended up walking to first as well to bring Page to the plate.
He drove a fly ball out to right field which was caught, but Wynn was able to tag up at third and cross home plate. The Rangers went into the second inning with a 2-0 lead.
Back on the mound, Page gave up his first hit of the game, but solid defense stood behind him and the Rangers finished the inning after seeing only four Orphans' hitters. This time it was the Orphans who fended off the home team in three hitters to keep the score the same.
The Rangers' lead was extended in the third inning after junior Parker Williams drilled a pop fly to a gap in right-centerfield which brought Houghland and Page across the plate.
After Ian McMahon hit a line-drive to center, Williams crossed the plate as well to give the Rangers a 5-0 lead after three innings.
The Orphans got on the board in the fourth with an RBI double and then with a base hit. But the Rangers responded with three more runs. The first coming from another wild pitch which brought Oxford to the home plate. Then, Page belted a long triple to right field which brought in Houghland. Williams finished it out with a double that brought in Page.
Going into the fifth inning, Blondi decided to call it a game for Page who took the short stop position while Oxford stepped onto the mound.
The Orphans found their game and brought around four runs to inch closer to the Rangers lead (8-6). But the home team did not back down; pinch running for catcher Brett Boneneberger, sophomore Braden Summers crossed home plate after a third wild pitch from the Orphans' third pitcher of the game. At the top of the order and Bryden Picklesimer on third base, the fourth wild pitch came and Picklesimer stole home for the Rangers' 10th run of the game.
Into the sixth inning, the Orphans tallied only one more run, but the Rangers went to work and brought seven players around the bases. It started with Houghland who hit a ground ball to third base and after an error throw to first, he made it around to second base. He crossed the plate along with Page and Williams after McMahon drilled a triple to the fence in right field.
With McMahon still at third, Picklesimer walked to first and then Oxford came to the plate again. He smashed a double into right field bringing around both McMahon and Picklesimer.
Wynn came to the plate and was hit in the back, giving the Rangers' two base runners and senior Houghland taking his second turn at the plate in the sixth inning. After checking a couple of pitches, Houghland smashed a long fly ball into right field which was dropped and both Oxford and Wynn made it around the diamond.
"I honestly thought he was going to catch it," Houghland admitted after the game.
This brought the Rangers' lead up to 10 points (17-7) and the slaughter rule was put into play.
"Everybody can play. Underclassmen, upperclassmen… we have a pretty good team," Houghland said. "We all did good, the pitchers threw strikes, the defense did well and everyone hit the ball."
Blondi admitted that mistakes were made, but it is only the first game of the season. He is confident that his players will be able to work hard and continue to find success.
"They did a good job offensively," Blondi said. "We did a real nice job…if we gave up a couple, we got them back."