A rain-soaked May has prevented baseball teams from logging many games or getting ample practice time on the field.
The rust showed in Friday night’s Mississippi Athletic Conference opener.
After Davenport North capitalized on walks and Davenport Central miscues in the opener, the Blue Devils did the same to the Wildcats in the nightcap.
The result was a split at Brady Street Stadium. North snatched Game 1, 5-3, and Central prevailed 6-1 in the nightcap.
“It looked like the same game just with the teams flipped around,” North coach Cory Wachal said.
North (3-1, 1-1) jumped on Central starter Mason Gersdorf for five runs in the first three innings. The Wildcats were aided by two walks, a pair of two-base throwing errors and five hits.
“We’re preaching if our pitchers throw strikes, we make routine plays and execute offensively, we can be a pretty solid team,” Central coach Chris Cartee said. “If any one of those things breaks down, then we’re going to be pretty average.
"Whoever plays the game cleaner usually is going to win, and they were better in the first game.”
Pitcher Nate Williams didn’t allow a run and surrendered just one hit through five innings. The right-hander retired nine in a row in one stretch.
“I thought the fastball was really effective early in the count,” he said. “When I got ahead of hitters, the second and third pitches were working well."
Central (1-2, 1-1) scored three times in the sixth, courtesy of two errors, to chase Williams.
Six-foot-3 and 240-pound freshman Justin Saskowski came in and recorded a strikeout and pop out to halt the threat. Senior Bryan Verdon closed it with three strikeouts in the seventh.
“Our guys responded well,” Wachal said. “You hate to see the errors, but the positive out of tonight was it gave us a chance to see what our kids can do in a close game.
“I don’t know if our team does anything great, but we don’t do anything real bad. They play hard, and that’s the best thing I can say about them. They’re smart, very receptive to coaching.”
The Blue Devils retaliated in the nightcap.
After a two-out error extended the first inning, Central’s Spencer Darland laced a run-scoring double and Jake Mahon followed with an RBI hit. The Blue Devils took advantage of a hit batsman in the second for a run and two more unearned runs in the fifth.
“Four games in two weeks, I didn’t think we were very crisp defensively,” Wachal said.
Central had traffic on the bases in every inning of Game 2.
“You don’t have to hit a bunch of balls out of the park to be effective,” Cartee said. “I’m proud of how they came back in the second game.”
Zach Wirt, after allowing a first-inning run, silenced the Wildcats. He worked five innings and surrendered only three hits.
“In the beginning, I was kind of trying to blow it past them, trying to get as many strikeouts as I could,” he said. “I had to remember I have a really good defense behind me and I just need to throw strikes.”
Wirt threw 36 innings during Central’s 25-win season last year. With Caleb Evans nursing an elbow injury, Wirt — also a catcher — could see more innings.
“Coming into the season, I thought he would be one of the guys that would rise to the top,” Cartee said.
Will Kranz came in to pitch the final two innings to secure the split.
“It was very important to get our confidence up,” Wirt said. “I was proud of the team in how we came back with more energy in the second game.”