As the calendars turn to March, Griffon baseball’s early season struggles continue.
The Griffons had a tough weekend in Topeka, Kansas, as they dropped all three games at Washburn, losing 8-6, 11-3 and 13-9 respectively.
Offense was not necessarily an issue for the Griffons. What killed them was when and where they found it. The Griffons scored nine combined runs in the ninth innings on Friday and Sunday, but by that point both games were virtually out of reach.
Starting pitching was a struggle over the weekend. The weekend starters, Justin Wood, Jack Schmedding and Andrew Meier combined for an 0-2 record, throwing 10 ⅓ innings, allowing 17 hits, 10 earned runs and a mere five strikeouts.
Friday’s game saw Missouri Western go down quickly, as Washburn put up four runs in the bottom of the second. After another run in the fourth, followed by three in the eighth, the Griffons found themselves down 8-0 heading to the ninth inning. Missouri Western showed they have a lot of fight in them, as they loaded the bases with no outs.
Zach Pych was hit by a pitch, and Reid Briney singled to right to cut the lead to 8-2, bases still loaded, no outs. Then Ben Tsui cleared the bases, as he smacked a grand slam to left center, as part of a 2-3 day at the plate, to make it an 8-6 ballgame. That was as close as they would get, as the next three batters were retired and the Griffons walked off the field with an 8-6 loss.
Missouri Western drew first blood in game two, courtesy of a Zach Hanlan sacrifice fly, but that would not last, as Washburn drove in a pair in their half of the inning. The Griffons countered with a Briney single next inning, but the Ichabods took the lead for good in the bottom of the third on a double. From there it was all Ichabods.
The Griffons could only muster two hits the rest of the game and slugged to an 11-3 loss.
The Sunday matinee was the most competitive of the three games. The Ichabods took the lead 3-0 after two, but the Griffons started to build after that. An RBI single in the third by Briney, followed by another next inning Troy Davern led to a three-run fifth to see the Griffons take a 5-3 lead.
The lead was short lived, however, as the Ichabods countered with a three-run fifth of their own. From there, a solo home run and two-run shot in the sixth inning, followed by a three run jack in the seventh, put the game out of reach. The Griffons would finish strong, with four runs in the last two innings, highlighted by a two-run Jordan Jackson home run, but they ultimately fell 13-9.
Head Coach Buzz Verduzco says that he is seeing daily improvement from his team.
“We’re still doing everything we can to improve,” Verduzco said. “I love that about this team.”
The weekend was similar to last year’s series against the Ichabods. After sweeping Washburn in both 2017 and 2018, Washburn has taken five of the six matchups in the last two years.
The Griffons look to rebound this weekend. They have a doubleheader today at Quincy, then play host to Rogers State this weekend.
Verduzco says preventing a big inning will be crucial for his team’s success this week.
“We want to play well,” Verduzco said. “We’ve usually lost games because of a big inning either in the front half of the game or in the last three innings of the game.”