Tyler Kulhanek had never stolen this many bases in one game in his life.
The Davenport Assumption junior tormented Davenport North for five stolen bases and helped jump-start the Knights' offense in the first game of a Mississippi Athletic Conference doubleheader on Monday night on the Wildcats' home field.
Kulhanek and his teammates' efforts on the basepaths were the reason Assumption won the opener, 11-0, in six innings. Senior hurler Jayson Willers took care of the nightcap for the visitors, tossing a one-hit shutout to lead Assumption to the 2-0 victory and the sweep.
Kulhanek's swipes were part of a nine-steal effort in the first game as a team as the Knights were relentless in executing a game of small ball. Although Assumption had nine hits in Game 1, only three of the hits actually left the infield and none of the hits consisted of strong contact. North's defense did aid Assumption (7-2, 4-0 MAC) by committing four errors in the loss.
Kulhanek was the courtesy runner for Willers, who caught the first game, although he was not nice to North freshman starting pitcher Justin Saskowski or catcher Donovan Weaver. In the second inning, Kulhanek came after on after a Willers' walk. He proceeded to steal second and third to help set up Nate Schlichting, who chased home Kulhanek with an RBI ground-out.
In the fourth inning with Assumption up 2-0, Kulhanek was inserted again for Willers after a walk and stole second and third again. He got home again on a throwing error by the Wildcats (1-3, 3-5). That was part of a four-run inning for the visitors that saw the Knights go up 6-0 after RBIs from Brandon Schlichting and Adam Metivier while Schlichting later scored on a wild pitch.
His fifth stolen base came in the very next inning as he took second base after Willers was walked for the third time in the game. His attempt to get No. 6 by heading for third, however, ended in him finally getting caught after a great throw by Weaver. However, Kulhanek wound up scoring three times in the game and led the aggressive base-running by the winners.
"It was a great throw by the catcher," Kulhanek said of getting nabbed on his final attempt. "I was just getting good jumps the whole game. Mostly, it was watching the (starting) pitcher warmup to see what he is doing to see if I could pick anything up. The guys before me also did a good job of talking about what is going on. But it was team effort to know what the other pitcher is doing. Coach (Greg) Thissen is real big on applying pressure to the pitchers and catchers and forcing them to make a play."
Thissen said Kulhanek has been helping set up the Knights with his legs all season.
"(Kulhanek) is definitely a weapon for us and we try to use him as best we can," he said. "He has done that all year and he's part of a few guys that have really done it on the basepaths for us. He has great speed, which always helps, but he knows how to use his speed and he has developed it."
Julien Broderson got the win on the mound for the visitors while Zach Wesolowski, Jeremy McIntosh and Noah Weiman also knocked in runs in the Game 1 win.
Kulhanek also helped set up the Knights in the second game. He started at third base and doubled in the fifth inning and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Gotilla. Alex Heckroth had given the Knights a 1-0 lead in the fourth after scoring on a wild pitch.
But Willers and the Knights' defense were the stars of the nightcap. Willers allowed just one infield single and struck out six while walking two in the complete-game win. He pounded both sides of the strike-zone but also let his defense make plays behind him.
North hit several balls hard but it seemed to go right to where the Knights' defenders were located. Gotilla, Weiman and Nate Schlichting, in particular, made several great defensive plays on the run to keep the Wildcats at bay.
Griffin Leibold was the tough luck loser for North in Game 2, allowing just six hits and the two runs. He struck out five and walked one. Jack West did go 3-for-3 for the home team in the first game.
"If we are going to hit the ball hard like that (in Game 2), we will be fine in the long run," Wildcats coach Cory Wachal said. "The last four games, we've actually hit the ball really well so I would rather have (lineouts) than pop ups. Our thing kind of has been we have one inning, where our heads go down (after errors), and then it's a struggle. But I was happy that it didn't happen in the second game. Griffin did a great job trying to keep us in the (second) game. That's baseball, and it's going to happen."