Sometimes all it takes is a little home cooking.
After an 0-3 start during a season-opening road trip to Tennessee, the Meadville baseball team picked up its first win of the season with a 4-3 home victory over Kennedy Catholic on Wednesday at Eldred Glenn.
The Bulldogs were all about timing, as Meadville was able to piece hits together to get on the board early. Timely hitting coupled with a strong start from pitcher Dominik Pruskowski had the Bulldogs out front 4-0 after five innings.
Kennedy Catholic rallied, scoring two runs off reliever Kirk Mumau in the sixth inning, and scored again in the top half of the seventh on a Hunter Grande sacrifice fly to crawl within one run.
With two outs and a runner on second, the Golden Eagles’ Garrett Ammann lined a ball hard up the middle, where it hit the umpire. Giullermo Quimones, who got a good jump off of second, came around to score, but the play was called dead once contact had been made between the ball and the umpire. Quimones was sent back to second base, while Ammann was awarded a single.
Trevor Smith, now pitching in relief for the Bulldogs, got Jeremy Branca to fly out to end the game three pitches later.
“When it hit the umpire, the ball was dead, and the runners have to go back to the original place,” Meadville manager Bruce Stewart said. “I think we probably would have fielded it, so when it happened I was thinking, ‘Oh no, here we go again.’”
It’s hard to say if the Bulldogs dodged any sort of bullet with the call, or if sure-handed shortstop Ted Williams would have ended the game himself with a play. In any event, Meadville put itself in a very good position to win the game early on, which proved to be just enough in the final inning.
The Bulldogs got the scoring started in the bottom of the first, when back-to-back singles by Williams and Smith led to a 1-0 lead. Williams stole second on the first pitch of Smith’s at-bat, and came around to score on the RBI single by Smith.
Kennedy Catholic appeared ready to cut into the Meadville lead in the top of the fourth, but the Bulldogs utilized the home field to their advantage, benefiting from a soft outfield to keep a sure double into the gap to just a single. Paul Spondike singled with one out with a line drive to the right-center field gap. And as soon as the ball made contact with the ground, it came to a halt, forcing Spondike to stay at first.
Meadville committed back-to-back errors after the single to load the based, however the second of the two errors would have scored Spondike had he been on second. Pruskowski, facing a bases loaded one-out jam, struck out Branca and induced a ground ball to end the inning and stop Kennedy Catholic’s momentum in the process.
“I’m very happy with my performance,” Pruskowski said. “My fastball was locating well, and my offspeed was there too.”
The Bulldogs added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth, as Smith, Zach Grill and Pruskowski all singled to lead off the frame, loading the bases for Biggs.
Looking for a big hit, Biggs delivered with a two-RBI double to make it 3-0 in favor of Meadville. Biggs’ hit was clutch, and was a departure from what the Bulldogs struggled with last season: Timely hitting.
“Last year we had problems piecing things together,” Stewart said. “We’d get guys on and leave them out there. It’s good to see we got some guys on and strung some hits behind it. Hopefully we can build off that.”
The Golden Eagles finally scored in the top of the sixth, but Meadville answered in the bottom half of the inning when Williams reached on a single, stole second, and scored on an error to make it 4-1.
While the offense was getting it done, so was Pruskowski.
The sophomore worked during the offseason to locate his pitches with consistency, and it appears the work has paid off so far, as Pruskowski was dominant on the hill. In his five innings of work, the sophomore allowed just two hits and struck out eight.
“We worked hard all summer and fall with (Pruskowski),” Stewart said. “There are still a little too many balls thrown to start at-bats, but we’ll work on that. He will get better as he goes, but he was strong all game long and did a nice job.”
At the plate, Williams led the charge with two hits and two runs scored, while Biggs drove home a pair of runs.
Pruskowski was satisfied with his individual effort Tuesday afternoon, but after the game was focused on the big picture. After a rough start to the season, Wednesday was a solid win for the Bulldogs, and Pruskowski hopes it’s the first of many.
“We’re getting better,” Pruskowski said. “I think this is motivation for us. We got the jitters out with the 0-3 start. Now we’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”
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