The Lovell Mustangs opened the 2016 season with a solid effort against the Riverton Raiders at the Senior Baseball Field in Cowley Saturday, splitting a doubleheader.
Riverton won the first game 3-1, and the Mustangs came back to win the second game 4-1 as the team put together two solid defensive and pitching performances.
Co-manager Michael Jameson said Cole Wambeke was strong on the mound for the Mustangs in game one, allowing just two runs, with only one of the two earned, on three hits and three walked. He struck out seven.
Trey Dickerson threw the final two innings in relief, allowing one hit and one unearned run, fanning one Raider batter.
Riverton got to Wambeke for two runs in the top of the first inning, and he then settled down to blank the Raiders for four innings.
“It was the first inning of the first game. He was probably anxious and a little amped up,” Jameson said. “Two walks are not characteristic of Cole. He was probably a little excited.”
The Mustangs scored their only run of the game in the bottom of the first frame when Wambeke led off with a double and scored on a single up the middle by Dawson Forcella. Lovell ended up with seven hits, but they were scattered over seven innings.
“We didn’t put anything together after the first inning,” Jameson said. “Cole pitched well enough to win. We just couldn’t get him run support. It was a tough luck loss for him. He did everything he could. We just didn’t score behind him.
“We’re working on consistency and changing up speed and location with Cole, helping him understand that he doesn’t have to strike out everyone to be effective. We were happy with our pitching and defense (in game one).”
Lovell won game two 4-1 as Jeremy Schneider dominated the Raiders on the mound before being lifted on a pitch count to protect his arm early in the season, as was Wambeke in game one.
Schneider pitched 5 1/3 innings, blanking the Raiders on one hit with four walks and six strikeouts.
“We wanted to keep Cole to around 75 pitches. Jeremy has thrown a little longer this spring so we wanted to go with around 85 with him. I think he had 84.
“Jeremy was dominant. He never got into a whole lot of trouble. His four walks were scattered.”
With the Mustangs up 4-0, Jameson pulled Schneider on the pitch count after he retired Riverton slugger Baylor Beers in the top of the sixth. Beau Green relieved and induced two ground balls, which got through the infield for errors. One run scored on a passed ball, and Green recorded a strikeout for out number two, but he was removed after walking the next two batters.
Dickerson relieved and retired the side on a fly ball to center, then blanked the Raiders in the seventh to pick up the save.
“Beau did what we wanted him to. He got two ground balls to get us out of the inning, but we had back-to-back errors,” Jameson said. “Beau did a great job. He did exactly what we wanted for not being on the mound for three or four years.
“Trey offers a change of pace and is pretty effective for an inning or two. He throws strikes and gives his defense a chance to make plays behind him.”
The Mustangs are still working on their batting eye and timing early in the season, Jameson said, noting that he would like to see the team protect better with two strikes as several of the strikeouts in both games were on called third strikes.
The Mustangs will travel to Riverton Saturday for a twin bill against the Raiders at noon and 2 p.m., then play in a Memorial Day Weekend tournament May 28-30
By David Peck