Wright City junior Austin Meine kept plugging away on the mound, anxiously waiting for his team to generate some run support.
It never happened during Monday’s 4-1 loss at Winfield, as the Wildcats managed just three hits. Meine stayed strong through six innings, striking out seven batters and walking just one. He gave up the majority of the nine hits he allowed in the final inning.
But Meine’s solid effort was outdone by Winfield starter Justin Bray, who struck out 16 of the 25 batters he faced.
“We watched too many first-pitch fast balls that were good pitches,” lamented Meine. “Then we got ourselves in trouble when we swung at bad pitches.”
“Our approach wasn’t very good,” added coach Dave Chapman. “(Bray) was really mowing us down there for a while.”
Meine says he had an uneasy feeling, even before the game started.
“I didn’t think we were very focused in pregame and in our approach either,” said Meine.
Bray walked just one batter and allowed another on base via hit-by-pitch, both in the first inning. The Wildcats failed to advance runners on multiple occasions, leaving two stranded in the second and another during the fourth.
“We had a really good opportunity in the first inning, with runners at first and second with one out,” said Chapman. “He was throwing high, and we were swinging at stuff above our hands, and it continued the whole game. We didn’t adjust to what he was pitching.”
At one point, Bray whiffed seven straight batters, striking out the side in the second and third innings.
“Those two guys were nails,” said Chapman, of the pitching staff. “We never really gave ourselves a chance to win the game. Offensively, we didn’t put any pressure on them. It was a little too late in the seventh.”
Winfield pushed through its first two runs in the bottom of the third with two outs, manufacturing three singles. Chapman says his team played like it was facing a much larger deficit.
“The way he was pitching, those two runs felt like four or five,” said Chapman. “And then they got a couple of insurance runs later in the game.”
The Warriors tacked on two more runs in the sixth, leading off with a pair of singles. Senior catcher Greg Hobusch tagged the first runner out at home, but Winfield used a hard hit ground ball to score two more times.
Wright City sparked a mini-rally in the seventh, but the host team was determined not to surrender its lead. Hobusch connected on a double, while Dallas Deroy and Tony Smythe singled. Hobusch managed to beat a tag at home plate, but Deroy wasn’t as fortunate, providing the Warriors with their third out to finish the game.
“We got one play at the plate, and we were hoping to make a couple,” said Chapman. “It was kind of a teachable moment too, where we want to be aggressive on the base paths.”