Football back in action

After a 6-5 season, fans can watch Griffon football get back to action during their spring game on Friday. Although Western lost a large senior class at the end of the 2015 season, they have found new or developed talent to step into multiple positions. One of the biggest positions in question going into the 2016 season is the quarterback spot. Last year all three quarterbacks saw playing time as TJ LaFaver and Skyler Windmiller battled various injuries. This season, head coach Jerry Partridge feels confident in Windmiller’s ability to lead the team in the quarterback spot. “Windmiller has had a very good spring,” Partridge said. “ He’s thrown the ball accurately and has increased in mobility, which is a plus for us. He gets major velocity on there [the ball] and leadership wise he’s kind of taken the bull by the horns, which is something we need.” Windmiller, who totaled 1,701 yards and nine passing touchdowns in eight games will look to lead the offense, but will have help from redshirt sophomore Josh Caldwell at running back. Last year Caldwell totaled 647 yards on 107 carries and punched in six rushing touchdowns while backing up former running back Raphael Spencer. Partridge feels as if he has another star back in Caldwell. “We feel very strongly about our running back situation, Caldwell is going to be an excellent, excellent football player,” Partridge said. “ He’s physical, does everything, blocks, just a multi-faceted kid.” There may be new faces in the trenches as well while the Griffon coaching staff puts together a tough offensive line. One potential starter that has gained some attention is sophomore Hayden Eatinger, who Partridge thinks can improve the o-line. “He came in as a center, but he might be starting at tackle,” Partridge said. “ He has that nasty streak to him, he’s one of those guys that, when there’s a fight on the field usually Eatinger is the start of it, he’s kind of got that little brother who starts the fight but the big brother always gets blamed.” Even with the departure of Griffon great Mike Jordan, Partridge and the coaching staff are excited about their defensive backs. “The secondary is going to be very strong,” Partridge said. “Our safeties are probably second to none in the league.” Western’s spring game will kick off on Friday at 7 p.m. The Griffons dive into the regular season at home against the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers on Sept. 1.

Explosive scoring makes Western successful on road

It seems like just yesterday the Western baseball team was playing their season opener in Arkansas, but 35 games later the Griffons find themselves sitting in third place in the MIAA. After winning 15 of 17 Western has cooled down just a bit. In one of their most impressive victories of the year, the Griffons downed No.10 Emporia State 8-1 in Emporia. Pitcher Weston Caindec dominated the Hornets in his six innings of work. Caindec held Emporia to one run, yielding seven hits and one strikeout. Infielders David Glaude and Jeremy Alvarado each had two RBIs. It was Missouri Western’s sixth straight win. The Griffons then welcome Lindenwood to the Spring Sports Complex April 1-3. The friendly confines of Griffon Baseball Field have not been so friendly for the home team and this series was no different. Head coach Buzz Verduzco thinks fatigue could have played a part in his team’s struggles. “We just looked a bit tired,” Verduzco said. Western dominated the Lions in game one, winning 11-2. Pitcher Richard Peoples went eight innings and set a career-high in strikeouts with 10. The Griffons received good news when pitcher Tyler Tuepker pitched a scoreless ninth inning. Tuepker made his first appearance since early 2015 when he was forced to have Tommy John surgery. Centerfielder Nick Gawley led Western with three RBIs. The Griffons lost the final two games of the series, 5-7 and 6-9. Two days later Emporia State made their way to St. Joseph and exacted their revenge on Western. The Hornets throttled the Griffons 12-2 in seven innings. The loss dropped Missouri Western to 7-7 at home this season. To counter that record, the Griffons have won 17 of 20 on the road this season. “We just haven’t been the best home team this year,” Verduzco said. “We’re tempted to call everybody and ask if we can play at your place.” The road warriors took the long bus ride down to Edmond, Oklahoma to play a three game series April 8-10 at Central Oklahoma. Western swept the Bronchos and scored 54 runs in those three games. The Griffons found themselves down 9-3 heading into the eighth inning of game one. That’s when the conference’s No.2 offense came to life, scoring seven runs in the inning. Glaude tied the game with a three-run homerun, his second homerun of the game. Alvarado gave Western the lead with his second double of the game. Game two would have made the school’s football teams envious of the final score. The Griffons won the shootout 22-21. “If you left any ball waist-high, you weren’t going to see that ball very long,” Verduzco said. Missouri Western tied a team-record with six homeruns in the game and the two teams combined to hit 14 long-balls. The teams combined to use 17 pitchers in the game. Caindec received the win and was the only Western pitcher to not allow a run. “We were just excited that we got three outs and nobody scored,” Verduzco said. Pitcher Evan Jones started the game, but lasted just one inning after allowing four runs. Hits were not a premium for the Griffon’s offense, tallying 20 hits in the game. Right fielder Kody Matthews led the team with five hits in six at-bats. Matthews also had five RBIs in the game, but it was Alvarado that led the way with seven RBIs—including the game winning RBI in the 10th inning. The Griffons kept on rolling in their final game of the series Sunday, winning 22-2 and finishing the sweep of Central Oklahoma. After tying the team-record of homeruns in a game on Saturday, Western again tied that record with six more on Sunday. Peoples had his second straight solid outing, pitching all seven innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out eight. This gave the reigning MIAA pitcher of the week 18 strikeouts in his last two games. “Richie has been one of our most consistent guys,” Verduzco said. The sweep brought the Griffon’s record to 18-6 in the MIAA and 24-11 overall. Missouri Western trails Central Missouri by four games in the standings with 15 games left in the regular season. The team will travel to Maryville on Wednesday to take on Northwest and then travel to Fort Hays on Friday for a three-game set against the Tigers.

Living a baseball lifestyle

There is nothing in life that compares to your first love—and no, I am not just talking about the girl down the street. For some it is an instrument, for others it may be that girl down the street. For pitcher Weston Caindec that first love was baseball. “My first memory as a child was baseball,” Caindec said. Weston was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. Growing up, there were few things more important to him than family and baseball. Luckily for Caindec, those two things meshed and helped shape him into the athlete and person he is today. “My dad was my coach from t-ball all the way up to high school,” Caindec said. He wasn’t just getting lessons from his father; Weston was also getting batting practice from his mother from the beginning. “My mom always talks about her throwing me wiffle balls from about the time I could walk,” Caindec said. Caindec was born into a close-knit family, learning life and baseball lessons from his parents while also having his grandparents there at each and every game along the way. Weston has two younger siblings, a sister who was adopted from China and a brother who also plays baseball. Caindec was not highly recruited coming out of high school. The Las Vegas native had one offer and it was from Lassen Community College in California. It was that one offer that helped Weston find the path that led him to St. Joseph. For that, he will be forever grateful to the man that gave him his first shot. “That coach was my greatest influence,” Caindec said. “He helped get me to where I am today.” As a child, Weston knew from the beginning that there was nothing else he would rather be, not a doctor nor a lawyer—he loved baseball and that is all he wanted to do. His journey to becoming a baseball player was a difficult one. Having grown up in Las Vegas, he played community college baseball in California before finally landing in northwest Missouri. “It was difficult, but it taught me to get involved and to meet new people,” Caindec said. Adjusting to new surroundings was one of a few lessons that Weston has learned on his path to Missouri Western. A lot of times sports teaches us things that we may not learn anywhere else and baseball has shown him that. “It teaches you to work hard and strive to set your goals,” Caindec said. “Facing adversity and how to change and adapt to the things in front of you.” Weston is still a college student first and is getting his degree in business management. He plans on attending law school back in Vegas once he gets his degree from Missouri Western. “When I graduate I want to be remembered as a nice guy who treated others here well,” Caindec said. “Because they’re not going to remember my stats, but they will remember how I treated them.”      

Tennis hits rough patch over weekend

The Griffons had a home stay this weekend, facing Washburn, Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State. On Thursday, April 7, Western had a strong showing against the Ichabods in dual matches. In the No. 1 spot, Yasmine El Ghazi took her match 6-3, 7-6. Sarah Giraldo claimed a 6-4, 6-3 win in the No. 2 spot. Sofia Aguilera held down the No. 3 spot with 7-5, 6-0 victory. Joanna Abreu Roman had a big No. 4 spot victory, taking the match 6-2, 7-6. Abreu Roman would remain undefeated in dual matches. The Griffons claimed wins in the No. 1 and No. 2 spot for doubles. Aguilera and El Ghazi took the No. 1 match 9-8, while Abreu Roman and Giraldo took the No. 2 match 8-6. Overall, the Griffons defeated the Ichabods 6-3. Head coach Shawn Becker understood the emotion that went into the victory for his squad. "This past week was quite emotional for the ladies," Becker said. "The Washburn match, anybody that was there saw what that match meant for both teams. Our character showed us the way through that match. It was a hotly contested match. Sportsmanship, line calls; there was a lot of questionable antics going on out there. It was nice to see that we kept our heads held high. We kept our emotions in check and we came out of that match." On Saturday, April 9, the Griffons lost a heartbreaker to the Bronchos. Losing five of six in their dual matches, Abreu Roman was the only Griffon to come away victorious. She claimed the No. 4 spot with a 6-4, 7-5 victory. Western wouldn't gain any traction in the doubles matches either. All three Griffon duos were defeated. Western fell to UCO 8-1. "Saturday was much closer...we emptied our tank Saturday," Becker said. "Doubles took the life out of us...Singles, the first three, three set losses. That was so hard for us. After that match, there were a lot of tears, but we spent ourselves out there." The Griffons rounded off the weekend with a match against No.16 Northeastern State on Sunday, April 10. Western started off with an early two points, after the RiverHawks defaulted at No. 6 sinlges and No. 3 doubles matches. Unfortunately, those would be the only points the Griffons would make in the match. NSU claimed all five singles matches, including a 6-0, 6-1 victory in the No. 4 spot over Abreu Roman. It would be her first singles loss of the season. NSU would also secure victories in both doubles spots, winning 8-3 and 8-2, respectively. Feeling as if Saturday's match wore them out before Sunday's, Becker believes they missed opportunities. "They [Northeastern] are No. 16 in the nation. They are a great team," Becker said. "But we make them play in spots and we see where they're vulnerable and we don't make them play...6-0's and 6-1's happen because we don't do enough in our capabilities and that's what happened." The Griffons hit a two loss skid for the first time all season, falling to 8-4 overall and 3-4 in MIAA play. Western will face off against Southwest Baptist on Friday, April 15 in Bolivar, Missouri. The match is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

Griffons surge towards top of MIAA

The No. 18 Griffons captured sole possession of first place in the MIAA after they swept both Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State over the weekend. Western began their rise to first with two dominating wins over the Lions on Friday by a score of 10-2 and 10-1. In game one the Griffons sent the first run across the plate off of second baseman Paige Shifflett’s single in the first inning. The game was blown wide open for Western in the second inning when they piled on six runs, including a three RBI homer from first baseman Kailey Green. The momentum of that inning carried the Griffons to a 10-2 mercy-rule win. Western kept their foot on the gas in game two. They scored 10 runs, with help from a four RBI bomb from third baseman Katie Klostermann, before the Lions could score their first run. Once again the Griffons claimed a mercy rule victory with a 10-1 score. Although head coach Jen Trotter didn’t believe that Missouri Southern brought their A-game, she’s happy that her team got the sweep. “They’re a better team than what they played like on Friday, but I wasn’t going to be upset about that,” Trotter said. “I felt like that was really important to set up Saturday, with our offense feeling confident on Friday and with us being able to limit some innings.” The first game of the Pittsburg State double header was a completely different battle from the Missouri Southern series. In game one neither team scored until the tenth inning when Shifflett hit a walk off single to take an extra inning 1-0 win. Pitcher Janie Smith held the Gorillas to only two hits in ten innings with six strikeouts while posting a shutout. While the Griffons were able to come away with the win they struggled against opposing pitcher Emmie Robertson who struck out 18 Western batters. The low scoring affair is a rarity that used to be the norm in softball according to Trotter. “That is fast pitch softball and there’s not very many games anymore where you’re playing 10 innings without a score,” Trotter said. “It’s just been a lot more offensively driven lately.” The Griffons got back to their high scoring offense in game two. Although they didn’t score in the first inning, the defense did hold the Gorillas in the first and second innings. Western struck first in the bottom of the second inning, knocking three singles, which produced three runs. They added on four more runs in the sixth inning while Pittsburg State managed to score just once in the second, putting another one in the win column for Western with a 7-1 score. Trotter had high praise for the two senior pitchers who fought hard on senior day. “I couldn’t be more proud of Janie Smith. On senior day you always worry about the emotions involved,” Trotter said. “Smith and Shyanne Saladino just absolutely owned it.” The Griffons are on an eight game win streak and are now No. 1 in the MIAA with a conference record of 19-3 and an overall record of 34-10. Western’s next test will be against the rival Northwest Bearcats who are currently second in the MIAA and are on a nine game win streak. The double-header begins Thursday, April 14 at 4 p.m. at the Griffon Softball Field.