What a difference a year makes.
Last season, Independence lost its first four games and was 1-9 through its first 10 but the Blue Devils opened the 2018 season with a 7-3 win over visiting Brooklyn on Monday.
“Last year, we were 1-9 in the first 10 games so we’ll take that first win,” said Independence coach Mark Echstenkamper. “We’re definitely way farther ahead than we were last year in terms of hitting, so that’s good to see.”
The Blue Devils outhit the Hurricanes, 6-1, but committed four errors.
“We made some first game mistakes and errors and some mental mistakes you sometimes make early in the season,” Echstenkamper said. “It was good to get out and play and have the guys see some live pitching. We had some really quality at bats throughout the evening. We had some clutch hits when we needed them. “
Owen Ramm’s two-out walk in the bottom of the first led to an early 1-0 lead for the Blue Devils.
Ramm stole second then scored on Jordan Mallernee’s single.
Brooklyn scored two runs in the top of the third to take a 2-1 lead but the Blue Devils responded with two in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead for good.
Tyler Teare led off the inning with a single and Jamie McMahon and Tim Marcinko drew back-to-back walks to load the bases.
Andrew Teribery and Michael Valenti both hit into run-scoring fielder’s choices.
Independence added four more runs in the fifth on singles by Kyle Stefanski, Mallernee and Teribery. Jamie McMahon also drew a walk in the inning.
“We had some good situational hitting,” Echstenkamper said. “Andrew Teribery had a two-run single and Michael Valenti put the ball in play and got us a run. Tyler Teare hit the ball well. Stefanski had two hits. He hit the ball really well. That was great to see.”
McMahon started the game on the hill for the Blue Devils. He allowed two earned runs and struck out six in three innings of work.
Brad Watroba entered in the fourth and didn’t allow a run to pick up his first varsity win.
“He came in relief and threw three innings of solid baseball to get his first varsity win,” Echstenkamper said. “I was really happy for him.”
Stefanski allowed one unearned run in the seventh and finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a run scored.
“We started last season off poorly and made it our mission to start strong and stay strong,” Stefanski said. “It feels great to get that first ‘W.’”
Independence pitchers allowed just one hit in the seven-inning game but the Blue Devils yielded six walks.
They didn’t allow one bat at-bat to lead to another.
“The ump wasn’t the most courteous when it came to calling strikes, but our pitchers believed in what our coaches taught them,” Stefanski said. “Event + Response = Outcome (E + R = O). The event being a bad call from the ump, your response being how do you handle the situation? Do you let it frustrate you or do you forget about it and keep pitching your game? Our pitchers kept pitching their game and throwing strikes.”
The Blue Devils are scheduled to host Cuyahoga Heights on Wednesday.