Once the weather finally relented on Thursday, the Wellsville-Middletown varsity baseball team was ready to get back to where it left off last season and end its two game losing streak at Eastern Missouri Conference rival North Callaway.
Just as hungry and equally as winless were starting pitcher Ben Bradley and the Thunderbird's. That made for two hungry opponents and one tight contest that stayed scoreless until the top of the third when the Tigers scored their only run. Shortly there after North Callaway flipped the script by taking a 3-1 lead then just kept pulling away to end up winning 5-1.
"Because of all the rain, this is one of the first times we've been on dirt. I think we've been on dirt four times, and it showed," said Wellsville-Middletown coach Earl Burton. "I'm not making any excuses because everybody is in that same situation. The biggest difference between today and last season is we're pretty young. In this game we started three new players because of the three seniors we graduated. We're trying to see where guys fit in, but today nobody was making contact."
In the third for Wellsville-Middletown after Kollin McCoy struck out to start the stanza and Ben Burton drew a walk, Ethan Burton singled to put runners on first and third. Tyler Bunch then stepped up to the plate, allowing Ethan Burton to steal second before Ben Burton scored on a wild pitch. Once Bunch ended his at-bat by striking out for the Tigers, Isaac Ussery hit a fly ball to left field to end the inning.
"Their pitcher (Bradley) dominated the strike zone and we didn't hit well. We'll do better than that as the season progresses," Earl Burton said. "We've got some kids who are trying to do to much. Some of that is because their playing roles that they're not quite used to yet. As they mature in those roles and they get more games in everything will come about for us."
Having started the game on the mound for Wellsville-Middletown, Ussery walked North Callaway's Chad Maupin to open the bottom of the fourth inning and was down 2-0 to Bradley when head coach Earl Burton pulled him in favor of Ethan Burton. What followed was a walk for Bradley, a wild throw down the third base line by the catcher that allowed a run to score and the Thunderbird's Adam Reno got hit by a pitch.
"Lasy year when we got to the playoffs we pretty much stuck with Ethan Burton and Ben Burton as our pitchers. This year we want to get Ussery and McCoy into that rotation," Earl Burton said. "The idea is to become deeper. We want to be able to manage the game no matter who might be off. Ussery is going to be a big part of that. He's a hard throwing lefty. Last year he only pitched an inning or to, but this year this was one of his first times out and I thought he did a very good job."
Another run then scored for North Callaway in the fourth on a high throw to second base by the Tigers before Tyler Bondurant got hit by a pitch and Christian Griffith struck out. When Jordan Delshmutt was able to reach base on an error and then took second base on the throw home, that put Wellsville-Middletown down 3-1. But, it also spelled the end of Ethan Burton's time on the mound. He was replaced by McCoy, who got Sam Althiser to hit a fly ball out and the runner was called out at home.
"We did a good job of adjusting later in the game. I thought Bradley was a little off on the mound early on, but he fought through that," said North Callaway head coach Kevin O'Neal. "It was a good performance by him. Hitting the baseball took us a couple innings to get going, but once we got rolling we had better at-bats later in the game."
It was the fifth and sixth when the Thunderbirds scored their other runs, respectively, the first of which came on an RBI double by Bradley after Maupin reached base on a one-out error. As for the rest of their accomplishments, Bradley also earned the win by pitching five innings and giving up one unearned run on two hits with 12 strikeouts and Maupin charted the save by striking out two in two innings on the mound, allowing no hits and no walks.
Once this contest was complete North Callaway then defeated the Tigers 3-2 in a three-inning JV game before Van-Far showed up for a varsity makeup contest that took several hours before the Indians were finally able to defeat the Thunderbirds 7-6.
With both squads scoring two runs in the opening inning, Van-Far went up 4-2 in the third and was ahead 5-3 in the fifth. North Callaway did turn the tides and take back control at 6-5 in the sixth, but the Indians came through when it counted most by charting two runs in the seventh without giving anything up.
Earning the victory for the Indians was Treyson Culwell in relief by giving up three runs, one earned, on two hits and four walks with two strikeouts in two innings of work. Prior to that Josh Hodde had started the game for Van-Far and allowed three earned runs on three hits and four walks with 13 strikeouts in five innings pitched that Logan Wilson suppoorted by going 4-for-4 with four runs.
Riley Culwell also got in on the good times for the Indians at 1-for-3 with a walk, one RBI and a run and Treyson Culwell helped his own cause by coming in at 2-for-3 with four RBI and a walk.
North Callaway's hurling effort's were led by Althiser's six-innings of labor, which included five earned runs on six hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. Justin Popp then got pinned with the decison by virtue of giving up two earned runs on two hits and a walk with one strikeout in an inning pitched.
North Callaway, 1-4 overall, 1-1 EMO, next played Clopton on Friday.
Wellsville-Middletown, 0-3 overall, 0-3 EMO, hosted Silex on April 6.
Van-Far, 2-0 overall, 2-0 EMO, hosts Marion County on Monday.
Also, Saturday's JV torunament was cancelled at the last minute because of the expected low temperatures.