Strong defense and pitching allowed the Lovell Mustangs to split a conference doubleheader and pick up their first win of the 2015 season against the visiting Powell Pioneers Monday night at the Senior League Baseball Park in Cowley.
Powell took game one 5-2 behind starting pitcher Cory Heny, who threw a complete game, but Cole Wambeke shut down the Powell bats in game two as the Mustangs won 3-1 to earn the split.
Powell nipped at Lovell starting pitcher Calder Forcella in game one, picking up single runs in the first, third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings. Forcella allowed seven hits and four runs, two of them earned, in six innings of work, striking out five and walking four. Wambeke pitched the seventh inning, allowing one more run.
Lovell hung tough, getting to Heny for a run in the second on an RBI infield single by Garet Fowler, who plated Jeremy Schneider, and a single by Riley Hill that scored Wambeke in the fourth.
In game two Wambeke started and pitched six innings for the win before Schneider picked up the save in the seventh. Wambeke allowed only four hits and one run in his six innings on the mound with four strikeouts and four walks. Schneider threw a scoreless seventh for the save.
Lovell took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third when Calder Forcella singled, stole second and scored on a double by Schneider. The Mustangs made it 2-0 in the fifth when Forcella doubled, stole third and then stole home.
After Powell scored one run in the sixth, the Mustangs answered with a run in the bottom of the frame when Justin Bacus singled and scored on a passed ball. Bacus and Calder Forcella had two hits each for the Mustangs, Dawson Forcella, Schneider and Trey Dickerson one each for the winning team.
Coach Steven Durtsche is pleased with the progress his team is making during the early season, especially the team pitching and defense. He said the season is really just getting started with the four games against Powell this week and last after a pair at Laurel, Mont., three weeks earlier with a limited squad.
“Our pitching, surprisingly, has been pretty tough when we find the zone,” Durtsche said. “Walks have been a bit of a problem, and maybe it’s a little bit of nerves, but it’s early in the season.
“Defensively we’ve been pretty stout. For two straight years we’ve been pretty tough in that area. With so few games we’ve been working on defense. It will only improve with facing more live at-bats.”
Strong defense has allowed the Mustangs to hang tough in the early season, Durtsche said.
“I knew we needed to focus on defense to be competitive,” he said. “Right now I’m happy with competitive. I’d like more Ws, but all year we should be a team people are nervous to play.”
As for the sometimes sporadic hitting, Durtsche noted, “The more games we play the more pitches the guys are going to see.” Improvement should follow, he said.
The Mustangs were 1-5 heading into a home doubleheader against Douglas Wednesday night in Cowley. The Mustangs host Laurel Monday at 5 and 7 p.m.
By David Peck