Head coach Jeremy Petty saw a lot of things during Tuesday’s season opener that he hopes his Sacred Heart baseball team can build on in the next two months.
He also saw something during the doubleheader with Minneapolis that he didn’t see during the entire 2017 season — a sweep for the Knights.
Sacred Heart picked up a pair of similar, three-run wins over the Lions at James Matson Field, taking the opener 7-4 and the second contest 6-3. In both games the Knights’ starting pitcher worked the first five innings and got the win, and in both games a Sacred Heart reliever worked the final two innings and earned a save.
The Knights also trailed in both games, but never faced more than a two-run deficit in either contest.
“We need to improve on not digging a hole and having to come from behind,” Petty said. “We play in a tough league and can’t afford to do that.
“But both games we battled back and our pitchers kept us in the game. We had some errors but they came right back and got the next guy. All four pitchers did a great job tonight.”
Senior Andrew Cavender got the start in the opener and allowed only two hits and one earned run in his five innings of work.
“I think we were ready,” Cavender said. “We’ve been practicing hard in game-like situations so there would be no surprises tonight.
“We’ve been throwing bullpens and getting our arms ready. We just have to limit walks from here on out.”
Sophomore Josh Weiser got the start in the second game and gave up only three hits and no earned runs in five innings. Sophomore Ethan Buckner got the save in the opener, senior Kyler Junk closed out the second contest.
The Knights did have seven errors in the doubleheader and five of the seven Minneapolis runs were unearned.
“We had some errors, but for the most part we did a good job of not following it up with another mistake,” Petty said. “We didn’t let it snowball. We got it shut down and back on top of it.”
After falling behind 3-1 in the opener, the Knights scored four runs on two hits and two walks in the fourth to go in front for good.
Cavender and Weiser had RBI singles, with Buckner and Kaiden Carter both scoring runs on wild pitches in the fourth. Jared McCartney and Weiser added run-scoring groundouts in the fifth and sixth to extend the lead.
Minneapolis got an RBI single from Tyson Villalpando in the seventh and had the bases loaded before Buckner got the final out on a foul ball to the catcher.
“This was the first time seeing in-game pitching so we might have been a little nervous,” Cavender said. “We made them throw a lot of pitches, which was our goal.”
Kade Stover had a hand in two early Sacred Heart runs in Game 2. The Knights executed the double steal with Stover on third and Buckner on first in to take a 2-1 lead in the second, with Stover’s sacrifice fly in the third making it 3-1.
Minneapolis starter Evan Keating also threw well, giving up only two hits over five innings and retiring eight consecutive batters during one stretch.
Leading 3-2 in the sixth, the Knights got some insurance runs. Cavender scored on another double steal, before McCartney and Luke Krajicek delivered RBI singles. Krajicek’s came as a pinch hitter with two outs on a clean single to center.
“One thing I was encouraged about is we had one freshman and three sophomores who were, for the most part, getting their first real varsity experience,” Petty said. “I felt like we had some holes to fill but in both games they played really well.”