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Western struggles in home opening series

The Griffons baseball team dropped two of three in their conference home opener this past weekend.

Through their first ten games, the pitching has been the team’s kryptonite. That was on full display this weekend, when the staff yielded six, 11 and nine runs.

Head coach Buzz Verduzco knows that his team was close to a much more positive out come.

“We were a base hit or a bloop single away from taking two of out of three games,” Verduzco said.

Game one of the series was played Friday afternoon. Taking the mound for the Griffons was Weston Caindec. Caindec had a solid outing, going six innings and giving up just three earned runs. Opposing him for Washburn was Mike Hefferan. Hefferan went five innings, while allowing just two Western runs.

Washburn struck first with a two-run homerun from David Gauntt. Western would answer in the bottom of the first when infielder Cosimo Cannella drove in outfielder Orencio Fisher on a double. The Griffons would score again in the bottom of the second on an infield single from outfielder Nick Gawley.

The game would stay tied at two until the top of the fifth when Washburn then took the lead on an RBI single from Lance Barkley. Western would then answer in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single from Fisher.

Western and Washburn stayed tied at three heading into the 10th inning. The Griffons would then send pitcher Richard Peoples to the mound to try and keep the game locked at three. Peoples had no such luck, allowing the Ichabods to score three runs in the inning, giving Washburn their first conference win of the season. Western fell to 1-2 in extra-inning games this season.

Cannella and shortstop Landon Mason led the Griffons with two hits each in the game. The two infielders are also leading the team in average, Mason hitting .410 and Cannella second at .405.

The second game of the series was not near as close between the two conference foes. The Ichabods jumped on the Griffons early and never looked back, winning 11-2.

Conner Schwienebart got the start for the Griffons, going five innings and allowed four runs on five hits. The loss dropped Schwienebart to 0-2 on the season. He wasn’t the only Western pitcher to struggle on the mound Saturday. Peoples made his second appearance of the series and this one netted bat results for the pitcher. Peoples pitched one and a third, allowing three runs and walking two batters.

Cannella produced half of the team’s four hits in the game, while driving in one run. Jeremy Alvarado and Mason were the only other Griffons to record a hit. The loss dropped Missouri Western to 4-5 on the season.

The rubber match of the series proved to be the most entertaining game of the three. The Griffons were able to grab their first win of the series on a walk-off single from infielder Kody Matthews, giving Western a 10-9 win.

Taking the hill for the Griffons was Even Jones. Jones was very solid in his previous start, going five and a third, allowing one hit and zero runs. In his start Sunday Jones allowed four runs over five innings.

It was the Western offense that carried them to victory on Sunday. The team combined for 15 hits, six walks and only two strikeouts. The Griffons found themselves with a 3-0 lead after the first inning, getting RBIs from Cannella, Fisher and catcher Brandon Downs.

Washburn would strike back with a vengeance, scoring seven straight runs over the next six innings. The scoring in the seventh inning started when Mason scored on a fielder’s choice. That left two runners on base for infielder Jeremy Alvarado. Alvarado launched the ball over the centerfield fence, tying the game at seven.

The Ichabods answered in the eight by scoring two runs. The Griffons would dig deep and make their second comeback of the day. Gawley tied the game with a two-run homerun to left field. The rest is history, as Matthews drove in Fisher and the Griffons were able to salvage one of the three games in the series.

Verduzco believes that was a great way to end the series.

“That was exciting for us because we really, really needed that,” Verduzco said.

Mason led Western with seven hits in the series, and Gawley led with four RBIs. The Griffons combined for 29 hits against Washburn.

Missouri Western’s pitching staff will try to bounce back this week against Southwest Baptist. The staff combined for an ERA of 8.04 in the Washburn series.

The Griffons will travel to Bolivar, MO, on Thursday to take on Southwest Baptist. They will play at 2 p.m. on Thursday, 2 p.m. on Friday and then play the final game of the series Saturday at 1 p.m..

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