It was good just for the Mentor Cardinals to get out of the gym and onto the diamond to start the season on April 2 with a home game against Normandy.
It was even better once Coach Jeff Haase watched his team beat the rain and beat the Invaders handily with an 11-1 win in six innings.
It was the first win for Haase as head coach at Mentor, but more importantly, his “scrappy” team set a good solid tone for the rest of the spring.
“The weather all day, it was rain all day, and we pushed to get it in and the boys came out ready to play,” Haase said. “This was a complete team effort today.
“I think it was really important to come out and show that guys given the opportunity they were ready to perform. You are going to have good and bad days, but today they scratched and clawed and got the job done. I think it is going to take 18 guys to win ball games and we got that today.”
Junior right-handed starter Matt Eiswerth struck out nine and got the win in a strong start despite hitting the first batter of the season and falling behind, 1-0. The Cardinals tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the first, went on top for good at 2-1 in the second and put Normandy away with nine runs over the final two innings.
Sophomore Nathan Birtley came up huge in his first varsity start with a bases-clearing double and two sacrifices. Eiswerth helped his own cause with a double and drove in three runs.
“Being in that gym for a month was not fun, but to get out here and play well was great,” Eiswerth said. “Getting off on that right foot is huge and it is a big momentum push for us. It is confidence.”
Birtley, who keyed a 7-run sixth inning to put the win away with a three-run double, said the key to the victory was to be relaxed and do what came natural.
“A lot of people might think you should be nervous, but I have played a lot of games in my young life and I tried to just look at this like another game and do my job,” Birtley said.
Ricky Valeri ended the game with a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning for the Cardinals.
Mentor is off for the holiday weekend and will travel to Riverside on April 6 for the second game of 2015.
Mentor 11, Normandy 1
Normandy 100 000 — 1 2 2
Home 110 027 — 11 10 2
Hitting: (M) Eiswerth 2B, RBI, Birtley 2SAC, 2B, 3RBI
W: Eiswerth 9K (1-0); L: Stacho (0-1)
Records: Normandy 0-2, Mentor 1-0