Wildcat baseball struggles, goes 1-4 at Russ Matt Invitational

Nate Bope, Staff Writer

The Wayne State College baseball team competed at the Russ Matt Invitational in the cities of Winter Haven and Auburndale, FL, from March 9 to March 12.  

The Wildcats struggled in the tournament, finishing with a record of 1-4 and being outscored 48-22. The results from the invitational move WSC’s overall record to 6-8 on the season.  

“We are dealing with some young growing pains right now,” Head Coach Alex Koch said. “But we did a really nice job of growing mentally and physically tougher as a team.” 

The invitational kicked off with WSC facing off against the West Virginia Wesleyan College Bobcats on Thursday, March 9. Each team scored two runs in the first inning, then the Wildcats tacked on another run in the bottom of the second to give them a 3-2 lead.  

The lead was quickly evaporated after Bobcat first baseman Devin Johnson ripped a single to left field to tie the game at three, and two batters later, catcher Thatcher Poteat hit another single to left field, giving the Bobcats a 4-3 lead. That hit put the Bobcat in the lead for good.  

Hot-hitting for WVWC tacked on two more runs in the fourth, five in the fifth and four in the sixth, as the Bobcats run-ruled the Wildcats 15-5 after seven innings.  

WSC then took on the Wayne State University Warriors in a doubleheader on March 10. The first game saw the Warriors sweep the Wildcats 8-0, riding a great pitching performance from Karter Fitzpatrick, who pitched 6 1/3 innings, striking out nine batters while only allowing three hits. 

The second game of the double header began with Wildcat designated hitter Hunter Babe singled to center field in the first inning to give the Wildcats an early lead. From that point on however, it was all Warriors. WSU scored 13 unanswered runs en route to a 13-3 Warrior win and series sweep against WSC. 

On Saturday, March 11, the Wildcats played the Ashland University Eagles. After a slow start in the first two innings, the Wildcat bats came alive. In the third inning, shortstop Quinn McCafferty hit a ground ball to second base, scoring second baseman Nate Cunningham on a fielder’s choice. In the fourth, Babe, playing first base, scored on a wild pitch thrown by Eagle pitcher Josh Meyer.  

The fifth inning saw WSC plate two runs off of a Colin Lynam single to center field, which scored McCafferty and Lynam’s brother Cade. Each team tacked on one more run to make the final score 5-1, a win for the Wildcats. Ryan Obrecht was credited with the win, giving him a 3-0 record this year. The game was closed by freshman Braden Cannon, who earned his second save of the year. 

“My fastball and slider mix has worked really well for me,” Cannon said. “I’ve been filling up the zone and getting weak contact often.” 

The last game of the tournament was against the Grand Valley State University Lakers on March 12. The first inning saw both teams start red hot. Lakers center fielder Scott Nelson led the game off with a triple which was followed by a double from left fielder Kyle Nott, plating the first of four Laker runs in the first. 

WSC’s first inning saw Colin Lynam triple to center, scoring McCafferty, who opened the inning with a walk. Babe then singled to right center to score Lynam, and Babe eventually scored off a throwing error from the Laker shortstop Ayden VanEnkevort. The score was 4-3 after the first. 

The Wildcats tacked on a run in the third off a Nick Barnett single to right center, scoring Babe. Both teams plated four runs in the fourth, with Colin Lynam hitting a solo shot for the Wildcats, before WSC took the lead in the fifth off a Trey Wells ground ball to the shortstop, scoring Cannon on a fielder’s choice. The scoreboard read 7-6 Wildcats after five. The Lakers tied the game at seven in the seventh inning with a Justin Mansager sac fly.  

The game was tied through the ninth inning and stayed tied until the twelfth inning, when GVSU exploded for four runs in the top of the twelfth. WSC only mustered two runs in their half before Laker pitcher Jake Rydquist closed the game, giving the Laker a thrilling 11-9 win in 12 innings.  

“We are looking forward to going out and building off the end of this trip,” Koch said. “Even though it ended poorly, we did a lot of good things that we can continue.” 

The Wildcats are back in action this weekend against the Minnesota Crookston Golden Eagles. This three-game series is scheduled to be the first home games of the year for the Wildcats. They will play a doubleheader against the Golden Eagles on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and then again on Sunday at 12 p.m. All three games are scheduled to take place at Bob Cunningham Field on the campus of WSC.