For a squad that’s nearly evenly split between upper and lower classmen, it’s crucial to make sure some of the younger players are put in tougher situations that they are sure to face should the Cascade baseball team make another post-season run.
“We have some really good, experienced seniors but we also have some guys with not much varsity experience who struggled at the plate a little bit this week,” Coach Roamn Hummel said. “I think as the year goes on and those guys gain a little bit more confidence in their swings — we get out of school and guys can work on their swings a little bit more — we’ll come up with those timely hits we aren’t getting right now.”
The Cougars started the week with a game against West Branch, but due to the seemingly constant influx of rain Iowa has experienced this year, the game was cut short and rescheduled.
After going down 1-2-3 in the first, Kaleb Topping kicked off the scoring drive by hanging in for a walk and then stealing second. Topping then scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Eli Green. Tanner Simon reached base on a walk, and after taking second and third on a pair of wild throws, was driven in by a Ted Weber single.
Patience paid off again in the top of the third — Haris Hoffman began by reaching on a walk and moved all the way to third on an error and wild pitch. Hoffman was then driven in by a Reid Rausch single, giving the Cougars a 3-2 lead.
In the fourth, the game was rained out, but both teams were able to reschedule for Friday.
During the make-up innings, the Cougars looked like they were going to begin a rally in the fifth, but things fizzled out when they couldn’t get the hits they needed at the right time. The Cougars ended up dropping the game 3-4 after West Branch was able to put two on the board in the sixth.
“For us, it’s really early for our younger guys,” Hummel said. “I think as the season goes on, they’ll gain the experience at the varsity level that they need and I think we’ll see some really big things out of those guys once we hit mid-June. I haven’t had the opportunity to see them play a ton of baseball games at the varsity level yet, but now that I have two weeks under my belt with those guys, I can see some adjustments we need to make.”
Against Anamosa Thursday, the Cougars dropped a tough one after the Blue Raiders capitalized in the fifth and put themselves out in front.
Tom Knepper inherited a bases loaded, one-out scenario from a tiring Rausch. A sacrifice fly to center scored the first run, then a wild pitch in the next at bat allowed another. Knepper coaxed another fly-out to end the inning, but the game was now tied 3-3.
In the remainder of the game, the Cougars would strand two men on third while Anamosa was able to drive in another run in the sixth, sealing the 4-3 loss. But, the first loss of the year didn’t do much to dampen spirits, as was evident by what the boys produced in the second game.
“Really we just didn’t come up with the timely hits that we needed in either of those two games that we got beat in,” Hummel said. “We had a lot of opportunities to come up with a hit that would put us ahead or even put the game away when we did have a lead early, but we just didn’t.”
The second game was called in the top of the fifth via the mercy rule after the Cougars put up nine runs in the bottom of the fourth. In that inning, the Cougars had 13 plate appearances and every one on the scorecard crossed the plate.
Hoffman threw a 64-pitch gem in the 12-0 win, giving up six hits while striking out seven and walking none.
Hummel said he is feeling more comfortable with the progress his pitchers are making on the mound, and in time they are only going to get better as they get out of school mode and back to playing summer baseball full time.
“Reid started off really well but I think he just got a little bit tired. We have to build some stamina with our guys,” Hummel said. “In the second game, Haris threw a gem for us and got us a win I think we really needed. In the make-up game with West Branch, Eli Green threw the first inning of the first day on Tuesday, but we came back with Caleb Topping to start the game on Friday and he threw really well. But I think the same thing got to (Topping) — he got a little tired and they got a couple runs off him.”
“I think once those guys get three-four-five starts under their belts, they’re going to get really good,” Hummel said.