Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to area baseball and softball teams and nobody knows that better than the Kirtland Hornets.
The Hornets, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a 12-4 win over visiting Harvey on Tuesday, suffered through a long weekend of postponements and rain delays that affected the team’s performance.
“We were very flat starting the last three games and I’m guessing it’s because of all the changes in the schedule since Friday,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel. “We had a lot of downtime, especially before Sunday’s games where they kept delaying the first one.”
Kirtland was scheduled to play at Cardinal on Friday. An umpire shortage led to that game being moved to Perry Friday night but that game was postponed midway through the third due to rain.
The Hornets then spent three hours at Classic Park on Saturday before being postponed again and on Sunday they sat through a two-hour rain delay before dropping a pair of games.
Tuesday’s conference game against the Red Raiders was important, both because the Hornets needed a win and simply to get back to playing baseball.
“I told the boys that we need to come out with fire today and that’s what they did,” Smrdel said. “It’s been that kind of spring though; you try to pack as many games as you can in when the weather permits.”
The Hornets scored six runs in the bottom of the first on singles by Joey Torok, Mike Zeuli, Ryan Lipps, Mason Sullivan, and Gino Rosson, and a Vince Liuzzo double. Reese VanArnhem also walked in the inning.
Kirtland added a run in the second and fourth innings and finished off the Red Raiders with four runs in the sixth.
Lipps finished the game 4-for-4 with three runs batted in.
“We knew coming into this game that we needed to come out with a win, so we just put the games in the past and came out with a big six-run first,” Lipps said. “I’ve seen Andrew (Pillar) pitch a few times and know what he likes to throw, so I just stayed aggressive like I have been for the past few games and it paid off.”
Torok and Zeuli both finished with three hits and Sullivan had two.
Sullivan allowed three earned runs and struck out three in 5 1/3 innings of work. He also tripled to the fence in the fifth inning.
“Mason impressed the coaches from the first time he went in to pitch at the varsity level (against Brush on April 2),” Smrdel said. “His first start didn’t go as planned against Berkshire, but today was a huge improvement. He did a great job of getting ahead of batters and mixing up his pitches. He showed great toughness when he was in a big jam in the third inning, working through it. It’s great to see a freshman come out having the confidence to get the job done.”
Another freshman, Andrew Spencer, finished the game and he also had a hit and an RBI.
“The kid’s a ballplayer,” Smrdel said of Spencer. “He’s got a high baseball IQ and on the hill he’s got great stuff. He knows how to mix up his pitches and keep guys off balance. All of our coaches have been very impressed with how well he’s been pitching, so I called him up today and he did a fantastic job. Seeing two freshmen make an immediate impact on the mound is a great sign for the program. Pitching is and always will be the key to success.”
Kirtland pounded out 17 hits in the win.
“Reese VanArnhem got the start at second base today and got his first career hit. He also turned a nice 5-4-3 double play,” Smrdel said. “Mike Zeuli had another great day at the plate and threw out another runner from behind the dish. Ryan Lipps is starting to heat up, which is a great sign heading into the postseason and Joey Torok is having an incredible season. He continues to be the spark plug for our offense.”
The Hornets travel to Lake Catholic on Wednesday.