MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (March 17–24)
COLLEGE BASEBALL: UW–Platteville 11, UW–Stout 6
WAUPUN — Familiar foes faced off Saturday afternoon as Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference members UW–Platteville and UW–Stout opened the 2021 baseball season by splitting a doubleheader.
The Blue Devils drew first blood, running away with a 2–1 victory in the opener before the Pioneers evened things up with a 11–6 win in the nightcap.
Thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic, it had been 378 days since the UW–Platteville baseball team had taken the field for an official game.
Mother Nature did her best to make the teams wait longer as an early week snowfall left Platteville’s Kendall Murray Field unplayable this weekend. As a result Saturday’s games were moved to a neutral site in Waupun with the Pioneers still serving as the home team.
While fortunately COVID has not caused the cancellation of a second consecutive spring season, its effects can still be seen on this year’s schedule.
WIAC schools will only be playing other conference opponents this year with some series being designated as “non-conference.” Saturday’s games between Platteville and Stout will not be counted toward either team’s conference record. The programs will face each other six more times this season, all in May, with four of the contests counting towards their conference records.
The Pioneers returned to action on Tuesday when they faced UW–Eau Claire in a non-conference doubleheader. They will next to UW–La Crosse Saturday for another non-conference doubleheader.
The Pioneers were able to flush the bad taste from game one from their memory right away putting up five runs in the first inning off of Stout starter Cody Urban.
In that inning, five straight Pioneers reached base, highlighted by a two-run single from junior Ross Krist and a two-run double by McLaughlin. McLaughlin was not be done in the night cap as he added RBI hits in the sixth and seventh innings as part of a 3-for-3, five-RBI performance. The Pioneer third baseman terrorized Devil pitching all day reaching base on seven of his eight plate appearances, walking three times and driving in six.
Kelso also stayed hot in game 2, rapping out four more hits and scoring four times in the win. He finished the day 5-for-7 with two walks, two stolen bases and four runs scored. In all, seven Platteville batters collected at least one hit in the game 2 victory.
Six Pioneer pitchers combined to hold the Devils’ bats at bay as head coach Chad Harris employed a bullpen-by-committee approach to lock down the win.
Senior Shane Nolan got the start and went two innings, giving up two runs. The 6’3” right hander only allowed one hit but struggled with control, issuing six walks.
Junior Nate Jennings entered the game in the seventh with the bases full of Blue Devils and only one out.
The right hander got out of that jam with no further damage and then closed out the games’ final two frames to earn his first win of the year. Five of Jennings’ eight outs came via the strikeout.
“A year ago we didn’t know when or if this day would come so the fact that we got to play a game was great,” said Pioneer head coach Chad Harris. “It obviously wasn’t pretty baseball but we got a lot of guys involved and now we get back to work to improve. Jonny Kelso and Mitchell McLaughlin both had big days at the plate and had some clutch hits for us, especially in game two.”
“I thought that our team was very excited to just get out and play some games,” said freshman third baseman Mitchell McLaughlin. “It showed we were nervous a little at the beginning, but I felt we really regrouped in the second game and picked up a solid win. We hope to keep progressing into this next week and make these next series’ better than the previous. I expect to keep hearing loud noises at the plate for our offense. Personally, I felt I was really seeing the ball well today. Lots of guys were getting on in front of me and I just tried to do my job and drive them in.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 7–0 lead after their first two innings at bat in Saturday’s opener.
Back-to-back doubles by Pioneers’ junior Ryan Vogel and freshman Mitchell McLaughlin to lead off the bottom of the second helped pushed two runs across to trim the lead to 7–2.
But Stout added three runs in the fourth, and six more in the seventh to end the game via 10-run rule.
The Pioneer gloves took a while to warm up on the brisk, but pleasant first day of spring in Wisconsin as the defense committed three errors leading to two unearned runs.
Devils’ lefty starter James Palmer worked six innings and kept the Pioneer bats at bay by striking out nine without a walk to earn his first win of the season.
Freshman Sam Hernandez got the start in the opener for Platteville and was saddled with the loss. Hernandez surrendered 10 runs (eight earned) on 10 hits and two walks over three innings of work. He struck out two.
Junior centerfield Jonathan Kelso led the Pioneer offense with two hits.