Wellington Heat Run-Rules Prairie Gravel in Opening NBC Game
By Karl Younkman
It’s not easy to score five runs in the first inning of a baseball game when your team doesn’t get a single hit in the inning. Nevertheless, that is what occurred when the Wellington Heat came to bat against Prairie Gravel of Illinois in the first inning of the first round game of the National Baseball Congress Championship Week at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium Friday night.
The Heat took advantage of five Prairie Gravel errors to score 10 runs in five innings and force a run-rule decision, winning 10-0.
Derek Fischer went the five inning distance on the mound for the Heat, keeping the past NBC Champions off balance and confused at the plate. Fischer allowed but three hits and one walk while striking out five. Two of the hits Fischer allowed were choppers on the infield grass that the Gravel hitters beat out to first base.
“My thoughts starting the game was to get through the first inning and let the hitters take over,” said Fischer after the game. “After we scored five runs that made my job easier.”
In the Heat first inning Aaron Siple worked a base on balls against Gravel starter Matthias Dietz. Siple stole second base and with two outs Tony Piazza gained first base on an error by the shortstop. Luke Doyle then walked to load them up with newcomer Matt Burke coming to the plate. A groundball to second resulted in another error and Siple crossed home plate for the first run.
Rowdy Andrews’ pop fly to short right field proved to be trouble for about three different Prairie Gravel fielders and the bases cleared after the dropped ball with Andrews ending up at third base. A passed ball brought Andrews in to score with the fifth run of the inning.
Head coach Rick Twyman made a special point to challenge the hitters to produce. “It was a good start,” said Twyman. “The other team had a case of nerves and they helped us with a lot of mistakes.”
The Heat added to the run barrage in the second when Kirk Rocha lined a double to right-center to score Paul Richmond. Rocha’s second RBI double of the night was the death knell for Prairie Gravel as that pushed the score to the run-rule total of 10-0 and the game was called complete at that point.
“I was watching him warming up,” said Rocha of the Gravel pitcher. “I noticed he liked to throw curve balls so I looked for one. Both hits were off curves.”
Associate head coach Adam Niesius was happier with the Heat players’ preparation. “We needed to come ready to play. We’ve been too lackadaisical in the last week or so,” said Niesius. “And we took advantage of their mistakes, scoring five runs without a hit in the 1st.”
The Wellington faithful were in good voice also, happily cheering every booted ball by Prairie Gravel and the Heat players seemed to find extra incentive in the support. It was a fired up bunch that emerged from the post-game team huddle in left field to the cheers of the fans.
Coach Jesse Dale was impressed with Fischer’s effort. “He’s been our guy all season,” Dale said. “He settled in from the start and didn’t give them anything.”
The Heat take on the NJCAA National team Saturday night at 7:00 pm. in a winners bracket matchup. “It will be a good game to watch,” said coach Twyman. “They’re a good team.”
With more Wellington fans coming to the stands, the baseball atmosphere at Lawrence-Dumont promises to stay heated for the Wellington Heat.