Headed into his team's opening games on Tuesday, Alpena baseball coach Phil Schultz wondered how good his team would be at the plate.
Thankfully, he didn't have to wait long to find out.
On a day that saw less than ideal baseball conditions, including snow for most of the afternoon, Alpena's bats were on fire at the plate as the Wildcats defeated Tawas in a doubleheader 16-1 in three innings and 13-0 in two innings.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Chandler Bloom, left, takes a swing at a pitch during the first game of Tuesday’s baseball doubleheader against Tawas at Alpena High School.
Alpena's leadoff hitter, Ryan Hendricks, started the first game off with a triple and from there the Wildcats were off and running. Alpena sent 13 batters to the plate in the first inning and scored nine runs, eight of those coming with two outs.
"It's a big (two) wins for us. The first two games of the year, you always want to start off on a good note," Hendricks said. "We started off 2-0."
Every player in Alpena's lineup scored at least one run in both games.
The Wildcats were beneficiaries of four walks in the opening inning, but several players also came through with RBI hits. A single by Chandler Bloom drove in two runs and later in the inning Brady Marwede drove in two runners on a single.
Alpena added seven more runs in the second inning, scoring several runs on bases loaded walks before Marwede drove in two more runs with a single. Alpena collected only eight hits for the game, but was walked 11 times.
Marwede led Alpena with two hits and five RBIs; Zach Nash had a hit and an RBI; Mitch Skiba had an RBI single; Tim Atkinson had two RBIs; Bloom had a hit and two RBIs; Luke Cordes had a hit and an RBI; Dylan Glennie had an RBI; and Zack Dewar had an RBI double.
Cordes pitched two innings and got the win for Alpena, striking out five and walking three.
Tawas' only run in the opener came after a wild pitch allowed Tyler Samuels to score from second base.
The cold weather played a huge factor in the game, forcing hitters to find ways to stay warm and leaving pitchers to try and grip the ball in the 30-degree weather.
"It was tough for the pitchers to get the feel of the ball but I was really happy that our kids hustled and played hard the whole way and did a really good job for the first time out," Schultz said.
The first inning of the nightcap must've seemed to last an eternity to the Braves, and in some ways it was. Alpena sent 19 batters to the plate and went through its lineup twice. The Wildcats led 13-0 by the time the inning was over, but collected just three hits. In all, Tawas issued 13 walks in the inning and also hit a batter.
Nash and Dylan Hoes each had an RBI single and Giulio Fantasia cleared the bases with a three-run double, putting Alpena ahead 11-0 at that point.
Hendricks, Marwede and Bloom were among the first walks Alpena received to start the game and, as with the opener, the runs started to pour in. Three of them came on bases loaded walks, two on wild pitches and another came on an error at third base.
Fantasia, Hendricks, Jim Schepke and Hoes each had RBIs in the inning that came from either bases loaded walks or flyouts.
Tawas got three baserunners on walks in the second game, but struggled on the mound as two pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone.
Despite the lack of rhythm at the plate, Schultz was very happy to see his team respond the way it did, especially in the cold weather.
"The focus is the thing you worry about the most and the kids getting into bad habits but for the most part I thought we stayed in the game," Schultz said. "I told the kids, 'it's cold out there, but I don't want anybody telling me it's cold. We know it's cold. You don't let that get to you mentally.'"
Alpena will travel to Midland on Thursday and Schultz is hoping the Wildcats' can keep their momentum going at the plate.
"That's a big surprise because I was thinking our hitting was going to be one of our weakest spots, something that was going to have to be developed more through the year but today it showed that we might be a little ahead of the game than I expected," Schultz said.