The Cosumnes River Hawks continued their winning start to the season on Friday, improving their record to 5-0 after a 5-2 win over Merced College (1-3).
Hawks’ baseball coach Tony Bloomfield is pleased with the team’s early success, but he knows there are things they can clean up with three of the five wins being decided by only one run.
“It’s good, we could be 0-5, we’ve had a lot of one-run games” Bloomfield said. “We are pleased. We gotta clean some things up and keep playing, but it’s always a good start to start 5-0.”
Freshman pitcher Chris Loeb started on the mound against the Devils and struggled, giving up three hits, one walk and a hit by pitch in two-plus innings. Loeb, who is still working on getting his arm in game shape, struggled early with his command.
After allowing a leadoff double in the first, he threw a wild pitch that allowed the runner to reach third, then a second wild pitch shortly after to put the Devils up 1-0 in the first.
In the third inning, Loeb gave up a leadoff walk and single, then he was replaced by sophomore pitcher Matt Stafford.
Stafford came in with a runner on first and third with no outs and escaped the jam, inducing two groundouts and a strikeout to strand the runners.
“It’s big for our team,”Stafford said. “Seeing those runners out there not able to score, it gives momentum back to us so we can go score more runs.”
Stafford pitched four strong innings and picked up the win, holding the Devils to three hits with no walks, while recording two strikeouts. Stafford has been dominant out of the bullpen early this season, allowing just one run and nine hits over 14 ⅔ innings pitched.
“He’s been doing that for two straight years, he’s that guy,” Bloomfield said. “He can throw four pitches for strikes, if he can mix and match, throw off speed pitches in fastball counts, that’s what pitching is.”
Timely hitting was once again a key for the Hawks, something Bloomfield said would be a key to the team’s success before the season. Entering the bottom of the eighth with a one-run lead, the Hawks were looking for insurance runs.
Freshman first baseman Billy Rockafeller drew a leadoff walk and freshman Brian Morley followed suit with a walk, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Freshman outfielder Jordan Yu advanced the runners on a sacrifice, putting both runners in scoring position with one out.
Freshman outfielder Peyton Wheatley stepped up with one out just looking to, “get the ball in the air, hit a sac fly.” Wheatley got more than that as he lined a double into right-center, allowing Rockafeller and Morley to score and make it a 5-2 game.
Sophomore pitcher Jeremy Caldwell shut things down in the ninth and earned the save, his first of the season.
The Hawks will wrap up their five-game home stand on Saturday against Lassen College at 12 p.m. After Saturday’s game, they will play five road games before taking on Shasta back at home on March 1.