FAIRFIELD, Ill. — With precious few swings of the bats outside during the days leading up to Thursday’s season-opening baseball game at Fairfield, Mt. Carmel manager John Copeland wasn’t sure what to expect from his offense.
Nothing like banging out 17 hits in a 10-7 non-conference win to ease a coach’s mind.
“I thought we were a little tense early, but as the game wore on we loosened up and put the bat on the ball,” Copeland said.
That tenseness may have led to an early deficit. Fairfield bolted to a 3-0 lead in the first, and it remained that way until the third, when the Aces strung together some hits to score five runs to take a 5-3 lead.
“Going down 3-0 in the first inning, we could have folded a little bit, but we came back and made a game of it.”
Devan Rich started and worked the first three innings before giving away to sophomore Pete Smith. With spring break ahead for his staff, Copeland had every one at his disposal.
“We had everyone on a pitch count today. We worried about that first and foremost,” Copeland said. “Not a lot of walks, but overall for the first time out, real good.”
Smith came within one out of closing out the win, but after Fairfield got the tying run to the plate with two outs in the seventh, Copeland called on Thomas Allen to get the save, which the senior did.
On offense, the Aces had a big opening day. Ian Hipsher had four hits, while Allen, Smith, Cort Rodgers and Andrew Wise added three.
Brandon Stringfellow drove home three runs, while Smith (2), Rodgers (2) and Noah Thompson (1) delivered RBIs as well.
The Aces were aggressive on the basepaths, too.
“We had few a steals and hit-and-runs to get the guys going a little bit,” Copeland said. “I told the guys we have a lot of things still to work on, but a we’ll take a win any way we can.”
Mt. Carmel (1-0) was originally scheduled to play in this first week of the season, but the game against the Bison was canceled last week.
So, that leaves the Aces with only one game in the books with spring break ahead.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Copeland said. I’ll beg the kids to try to pick up a baseball and hit in the cages during break.”
The season resumes on Tuesday, April 5 when Mt. Carmel opens the home season against Robinson.