Effingham Daily News
While Oblong and North Clay took the diamond Monday, the temperature was far from balmy in the low- to mid-40s, hardly traditional baseball weather.
At least that's what one may think. North Clay used the experience it has gained practicing outdoors all month and crushed Oblong in the first inning, scoring nine runs on its way to an 11-1 win in four-and-a-half innings.
The bats got going early and often for John Frech's Cardinals and they never looked back to move to 1-0.
"We've had every practice outside, we haven't been in the gym," Frech said. "Even the days when it was bad, we were still able to get on the field and do a lot of things. We have the cage here, that opened us up to live pitching, and we've done well in that department."Braden McNeely pitched a scoreless first and immediately got some run support in the bottom of the first.
Leadoff man Lawson Britton connected for a leadoff homer in first at-bat of the season, something the Cardinals are counting on out of Britton.
"Lawson's kind of our catalyst, he gets everything going," Frech said. "He's been hitting leadoff for us for three years. You can't say anything bad about him, he's a hard-nosed baseball player."
From there, things snowballed. McNeely and Adam Cox singled, with McNeely scoring on a Jordon Byers grounder that was booted, and Cox scoring on a bases-loaded bunt single by Michael Lovett, which also brought home another run via an error.
Up 4-0, Brandon Repking singled in a run, Britton drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, McNeely doubled in a run and two runs scored on an error on a Cox groundball.
The bats wouldn't connect again like they did in the first inning, but they wouldn't need to. McNeely cruised through the next four innings, allowing just four hits on the game.
Oblong scored in the third on a two-out double by James Rogers, who took the loss in one inning on the mound for the Panthers. North Clay answered in the third with an RBI single by Byers, and got to their 10-run lead on a Cox double in the fourth.
Again, it was more than enough for the Cardinals' lefty on the hill.
"Huge for Braden," Frech said. "That's hopefully on the list of many to come. He bowed his neck a little bit, and got us through five, which is what we needed."
He'd also drive in a run with a double in a 2-for-3 outing at the plate, scoring twice. Cox was 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI, Byers drove in two while going 1-for-4 and Britton was 1-for-2 with the homer and two RBIs. Lovett and Repking each were 1-for-3 with an RBI, and Collin Warren was 1-for-1 with two runs and a stolen base.
The Cardinals (1-0) travel to Noble/Clay City Friday afternoon at 4:15 p.m., while Oblong (0-1) plays again today at Cumberland for the Pirates' season opener.
Oblong 001 00 1 4 3
North Clay 901 1X 11 10 0
WP - McNeely (5 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 5 K, 4 BB) LP - Rogers (1 IP, 9 R, 6 ER, 6 H, 0 K, 2 BB)
Oblong: Brown (0-2, R, BB, SB); Rogers (1-3, 2B, RBI); Mehler (1-3); Ty. Woods (1-2); Gill (1-1)
North Clay: Britton (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB, SF); McNeely (2-3, 2B, RBI, 2 R, BB); Cox (3-4, 2B, RBI, 2 R); Bailey (0-2, 2 BB); Byers (1-4, 2 RBI, R, SB); VanDyke (0-1, R, 2 HBP); Lovett (1-3, RBI, R); Repking (1-3, RBI, R); Warren (1-1, 2 R, 2 BB, SB)