The Warrior baseball team is finding its rhythm in the midst of a busy week on the road.
After splitting a non-conference doubleheader at Graceland on Wednesday, Waldorf rolled into Wisconsin with some momentum and rode that to a sweep of Viterbo, 11-8 and 6-5, Thursday in North Star Athletic Association action.
“They were ugly wins, but we will take them,” Waldorf head coach Joe Tautges said.
Offense has been key for Waldorf (8-19 overall, 2-4 NSAA) as of late, with the Warriors scoring at least six runs in each of their four games this week.
That being said, Waldorf started Thursday’s twinbill with a 6-0 cushion; and in the nightcap the Warriors scored the game’s first four runs.
The home team on the scoreboard – as snow in Forest City, Iowa, forced the series to be moved to Wisconsin – the Warriors grabbed their 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first, with five of those tallies courtesy of the home run.
Mitchell Keeran smashed a two-run homer to make it 3-0, and Matt Palmer capped off the first-inning rally with a three-run, four-bagger over the left-field fence.
Viterbo answered scoring three times in the top of the second inning, then twice more in the third, but the Warriors got a solo homer by Palmer in the bottom of the third to make it 7-5.
“We need to find a way to put teams away when we have the chance,” Tautges said. “We had chances in both games and didn’t get it done.
“Our pitchers need to do a better job of pitching with leads: We get up on the hitter 0-and-2, and then we try to be too fine, which ends up in giving up a walk or hit,” Tautges added.
“Our pitchers just need to trust their stuff.”
Heath Chapman was Waldorf’s starting pitcher in the opener. Handed a 6-0 lead going into the top of the second, the freshman from Phoenix, Ariz., had the difficulty of going up against a tough V-Hawks offense that was previously undefeated in NSAA play (4-0) going into Thursday’s doubleheader.
The V-Hawks came back with another run in the top of the fourth inning, but 7-6 down would be the closest that Viterbo got.
And although the Warriors didn’t come out with easy wins, it was very impressive how they didn’t panic when adversity started to rear its ugly head in favor of the V-Hawks (7-24, 4-2).
The Warrior’s Nestor Jimenez scored on an error in the bottom half of the fourth inning, then Waldorf scored again in the fifth on a solo shot by Jimmy Quirk.
And during Waldorf’s half of the sixth, Keeran recorded his third RBI of the game with a single to score Jimenez, giving the Warriors a 10-6 lead.
The V-Hawks inched closer by plating two in the top of the eighth inning, but the Warriors still weren’t done at the dish.
Thanks to Jimmy Quirk’s sacrifice fly, Waldorf plated an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning to help ice the 11-8 win.
Looking for the three-inning save, reliever Bailey Nydokus ran into some trouble with one out in the top of the ninth, but with the bases loaded he got a huge fly out to first baseman Cal Fazzio, then retired Preston Stach to end the threat unscathed.
It was déjà vu in the nightcap as Waldorf scored four times in the first inning, with Palmer finishing off the rally with a two-RBI single for a 4-0 Warrior lead.
Mackenzie Pearson (1-5), who threw a complete game at home last week, followed that up with another against Viterbo to earn his first win of the season, striking out two in seven innings.
The V-Hawks managed to plate two in the second inning, and closed to 4-3 down in the top of the fourth, but Keeran gave his starting pitcher breathing room with a two-run dinger to make it 6-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Pearson battled through fatigue in the seventh inning, and a pair of errors, as Viterbo scored twice, but the righty from Gold Coast, Australia, buckled down to get the final two outs with two runners aboard for the Warriors.
Leading Waldorf at the plate was Palmer, who was 4-for-6 with two home runs and six RBIs, while Keeran was 3-for-6 with two homers and five RBIs. Joey Ponder added a 4-for-7 day at the play, and Quirk added a pair of RBIs in the doubleheader sweep.
The Warriors – winners of three of their last four – look to continue their hot play at Viterbo again on Saturday in another doubleheader scheduled for noon.
“Hopefully this recent stretch will give us some confidence going into Saturday,” Tautges said.