The 3rd/5th ranked Pirates opened conference play on Saturday with a tall task – rebound from a tough weekend in Tallahassee against the defending national champions who had just swept Southern Union the weekend before. When the smoke cleared on Sunday evening, the Pirates won 2 of 3 from the visiting Trojans to take their conference opening series.
Game 1 was a pitching aficionado’s classic against arguably the top two pitchers in the Region, with CVCC’s Dalton Rentz matching up against CACC’s John Michael Knighton. It proved to be worth the hype as each pitcher matched each pitch inning after inning. However, Knighton was the first and only one to break, as the Pirates broke through first on RBI singles by Jeff Ronpirin and Trevor Kieboom in the 3rd and 4th innings to give Rentz all of the run support he would need.
With the score at a stalemate, Rentz gave up 2 singles in the first, one in the second and them commenced to retiring 13 straight Trojans over the next four innings. He was as good on Saturday as he has been in his entire career, allowing only 5 hits, with 5 punch outs against only one walk in a complete game effort that required only 90 pitches.
Clinging to a 2-0 lead, CACC struck in the 8th with a single run to cut the lead in half and temporarily snatch the momentum. However, it was quickly retrieved, when those men again, Jeff Ronpirin and Trevor Kieboom, came up huge with RBI singles to put the Pirates up 5-1 to end the day for Knighton.
Rentz went back out in the 9th to finish what he started to down the Trojans for a 1-0 series lead.
Game 2 was more a less a repeat of game 1 in terms of a pitchers’ duel, as Huntbo Mitchell faced lefty Shaun Smirnoff in 5+ innings of shutout baseball in which Mitchell allowed only 4 hits, while Smirnoff gave up only 3.
CACC got on the board first, when a walk, and error, and a fielder’s choice gave the Trojans a 1-0 lead. However, the Pirates tied in their half of the 6th when Jeff Ronpirin singled and later scored on a wild pitch to knot the game at 1.
Closer Chris Brown came on in the 7th to hold things at bay, but unfortunately, a walk, and an error cost the Pirates a run and eventually the game, as they could not push the tying run across in the 7th with runners on 1st and 2nd and one out.
With the series tied 1-1, Dylan Lee came to the rescue in Game 3 and threw an absolute gem. After surrendering 2 unearned runs in the first on a botched bunt defense, Lee settled in and went the distance for the Pirates recording 4 1-2-3 innings in the process.
After falling behind 2-0, CVCC answered back in their half of the first, when Jeff Ronpirin led the inning off with a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch. With Lee handcuffing CACC the rest of the day, the buccaneers took the lead for good in the third, plating 3 runs, keyed by Cam Sperry’s 2 run single and Jake Maziar’s RBI ground out to put Chatt up 4-2.
Lee continued to deal and allowed his only earned run of the day, when CACC scored on a 2 out single to pull within one run. However, the offense put things away in the 5th with a 2 spot, as Maziar drove in another run, while Sam Knight scored on an error.
With the Pirates up 6-3, Lee kept dealing and threw up zeroes the rest of the way in tossing his first career complete game conference win for the Pirates and securing the series win.
On Monday, the Pirates stepped out of conference and hosted Faulkner University’s JV squad for a double header. Game 1, things went exactly as they were supposed to in a 15-0 win, as the Pirates recorded 19 hits and used 4 pitchers, with Mitch Shelby picking up his first win of the season.
The Pirates scored early and often and were able to get much needed at bats for several of the position players. Leading the charge was John Holland, going 3-4 with 3 RBI’s, while Jeff Ronpirin collected 2 more hits and an RBI. Cam Sperry had a perfect 3-3 day with 3 ribbys, while Jake Maziar added 2 RBI’s to his stat column.
Unfortunately, game 2 turned into a classic example of overlooking someone, as the Pirates lost to JV team for the first time in over a decade, as the offense managed 11 hits, but only pushed across 4 runs.
However, it was the base on balls and the ability to pitch ahead late in the game that cost the Pirates the lead and the game.
There were some bright spots, though, as starter Matty Evenson looked like the dominant Evenson the Pirates have been looking for, throwing 94 mph fastballs and pounding the strike zone, while freshman Tyler Welch proved a point that he needs to be more of a factor in the pitching staff with 2 quality innings of work. Additionally, Kenny Ford had a big day, going 4-6 and wreaking havoc on the base paths.
The Pirates are now 17-6 and 2-1 in conference on the 2-14 season and will head to Wadley, Alabama for a key 3 game conference set this Friday and Saturday against Southern Union.