Wellington Heat Opens Season with Victories
By Karl Younkman
With a runner-up finish in the 2013 NBC World Series the Wellington Heat baseball franchise will likely carry a target on their backs in the second season at Hibbs-Hooten field. And after three games of the young season the squad looks as though they are ready to meet the challenge.
The Heat opened the 2014 schedule with two games against the Denver Cougars Friday night at the ball park and after a slow start the bats came alive and the home team came away with a 16-0 win. The Heat put up 11 runs in the eighth and ninth innings to bury the Cougars. Jacob Doyle started the game on the mound for the Heat and came away with the win.
In the second game the next evening the Heat jumped on Denver early and cruised to an 11-2 win. KCAC batting champ, Kirk Rocha of Tabor College went 3 for 4 and first baseman Tony Piazza chipped in with two hits in four chances. Friends University’s Brady Bowen notched his first victory of the season on the hill.
After Saturday’s victory Head Coach and Owner Rick Twyman issued a warning. “Our first true test will come against Andover in Sunday’s game,” said Twyman.
And indeed the Kansas Cannons of Andover came to town and took aim at the Heat from the get-go. The Cannons put up seven runs in the their first six innings and only first baseman Brett Clark’s second inning RBI double accounted for the lone Heat run, scoring Rocha.
Meanwhile, Newman University’s Ryan Jenkins was shutting down the Cannon’s potent offense. Jenkins took the mound to start the sixth and held the Cannons at bay for three scoreless innings.
In the home half of the sixth the Heat hitters finally got to the Cannon’s starting pitcher as they plated 4 runs to run the score to 7-5 at the end of six. Friends’ Clark provided the big blow with a two run homerun over the right field wall. “He through me a 2-0 fastball and I was sitting on it,” said Clark. Brett sported a .340 average at Gateway Community College so the hits should continue to come this summer.
The Heat threatened in the 7th with a Daniel Bolte single and after advancing to second base on catcher Paul Richmond’s sac bunt the inning stalled.
Then in the 8th inning Luke Doyle started the fun for the Heat with a broken bat infield single and then used his speed to steal second. Piazza drove him home with a basehit and took second on the throw to home to try to get Doyle who scored to make it 7-6.
Rocha showed his wheels in the next at bat with an infield RBI single to tie the score. A pitching change by the Cannons tagged the Heat with two outs and then third baseman Bolte came to the dish. With two strikes in the count Bolte laced a single up the middle to score Rocha and the Heat had it’s first lead. “Coach told me to stay centered and stick to my approach, “ said Bolte of his game-winning RBI.
Bolte promptly stole third base and then scored on the throw in the dirt from the Kansas catcher to make the score 9-7. Robbie Romero came on in the top half of the ninth for a perfect inning to record the save.
Twyman’s prophecy of the night before was on the money. “Tonight (Sunday) was our true test,” said Twyman. “ We were not ready to go to start the game. But we played hard and battled. And Jenkins pitched three solid innings for us to shut them down.”
The Heat players have already taken to the town in this their second season in Wellington. “It’s great here,” said Bolte. “We intend to have a good season here. Winning is the goal and losing is unacceptable.”
Brett Clark is enjoying his stay also. “It’s been a good experience,” said Clark. “It’s been great interacting with the community.”
After two home games Monday and Tuesday the Heat open league play against the El Dorado Broncos Thursday at the ballpark. Games begin at 7:05.