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News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Tim Atkinson, second from right, is congratulated by his teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning in the second game of a doubleheader against Sault Ste. Marie Saturday at Alpena High School. Atkinson’s home run gave Alpena a 5-0 lead.
The Alpena baseball team's home opener proved to be the perfect opportunity for the Wildcats to show what their capable of this season.
Alpena limited Sault Ste. Marie to seven hits, turned on the offense and backed it up with tight defense en route to wins of 10-2 and 10-0 (five innings) over the Blue Devils on Saturday.
"I'm really pleased that we opened up here at home (so well)," Alpena coach Phil Schultz said. "The kids, I told them to stay focused and work hard and hopefully we'll build on that and have a good week."
Mitch Skiba and Andy Marwede combined to pitch a two-hit shutout in the second game, with Skiba starting and pitching the first four innings.
The Wildcats (5-1) scored a run in each of the first two innings, before taking firm control of the game with a three-run third inning. Tim Atkinson capped the inning with his first career home run, a two-run shot to center field to give Alpena a 5-0 lead.
"I had a feeling it might go, but you sprint it out until the ump calls it," Tim Atkinson said. "It's a great feeling, (because) it's my first one ever."
Tyler Pintar singled in Skiba in the next inning before the Wildcats' offense erupted for four more runs in the fifth inning to pick up a mercy-rule win. Skiba had a two-run single in the inning and Andy Marwede followed him with a two-run double.
Brady Marwede had two of Alpena's nine hits in the game and the Wildcats finished the day with 14 hits.
"When the weather warms up bats, get hot too. We were just feeling it today, we've hit well all week, doing a lot of repetitions," Atkinson said. "Today was the first really nice day of the year and we took advantage of it."
While Alpena's offense was red-hot at times, the Wildcats also backed up stellar pitching performances in both games with some impressive defense. In the fourth inning of the opener, Alpena's infield turned two straight solid plays and caught Sault in several double plays during the game.
The Wildcats went quietly in the first inning of the opener before catching fire in the second inning. Sault pitcher Nick Beatty issued six straight walks to begin the inning. Jay Dutcher, Dylan Hoes, Dylan Glennie, Pintar and Atkinson all came away with RBIs by the time Alpena's turn at bat had ended.
Alpena tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning, two of them coming in after a pinch-hit double by Andy Marwede.
"When we get the nicer weather, I think we start to hit the ball better," Schultz said. "Some of these kids showed they can hit with some power."
Atkinson and Cody Tucker combined for the win for Alpena. Atkinson pitched the first three innings and allowed just two hits. Tucker pitched the final four innings and allowed two runs on three hits.
Sault picked up two runs in the fifth inning, with Colby Peller coming up with an RBI single and Frank Bailey grounding out to score Ryan Wollan.
Beatty was chased after 1 1/3 innings and Zac Jodoin and Nathan LaJoie both saw time on the mound in relief for Sault.
The Blue Devils' only other serious scoring threat came in the second inning, when they loaded the bases with two outs. Atkinson quelled the threat by striking out Andrew Kropa swinging.
Alpena is in for a busy week as the Wildcats travel to Ogemaw tomorrow, host Petoskey on Thursday and then host the MacKenzie Invitational on Friday and Saturday.