MACON – West Union is having some fun.
The school’s boys’ basketball team had fun this winter, winning the Southern Hills Athletic Conference Division I title for the first time since 1989, after being picked to finish last.
Now, it’s the baseball team’s turn.
Jared Fenton pitched a complete game as the Dragons knocked off Eastern Brown on Tuesday, 9-2, moving to 6-0 on the season and setting up a battle of unbeatens at Whiteoak on Wednesday.
“We keep reminding everybody that they call it a baseball game and when you play games, you should have fun,” said West Union coach Joe Kramer. “As long as we approach it like that, it keeps us relatively relaxed and then when it’s time for us to play, we’ll try to focus at that time. They go hand-in-hand.
“We’re 6-0 and it’s always fun when you win,” added Kramer. “We just hope to keep riding that streak.”
For West Union, the success has come in all three phases of the game – pitching, defense and hitting.
“When you do those three things, things usually work out well for you,” said Kramer. “We just hope we can keep it up because it’s always fun to win.”
The Dragons’ starting pitchers haven’t left a game all year, and that was the case again on Tuesday as Fenton went all seven innings in the victory. He struck out four batters and only allowed two runs after struggling with some command issues early on, walking five batters in the first two innings, including three in the second inning to load the bases. He got out of the jam unscathed by getting Eastern’s Mike Schmid to pop out. The game was the fourth in a row the Warriors have lost.
“They’re definitely a good team. They do things well all around. They hit the ball well, they field it well,” said Eastern coach Steve Goetz. “We’ve also been struggling. We’ve just been having a hard time catching the baseball right now. Just a few plays here and there and we’re not making them and getting ourselves in holes early and then we’re just not swinging the bat great to come back right now.”
Fenton’s first start came in the season opener against Manchester, where he went all seven innings and racked up 17 strikeouts. The southpaw also homered and drove in two runs in the 6-1 victory.
“I was just having fun,” said Fenton. “That’s all it was.
“I really think the key to our success this year is we all just go out there and have fun, make it as fun as possible,” added Fenton. “I know for me, since this is my last year, I’m just going to go up there with the mindset that whatever happens, happens. I’m not looking for a perfect season. I’m just looking to have fun.”
Fenton pitched all six innings of an 11-0 win over Peebles, adding six more strikeouts to his total. The next win came against Ripley, 26-0. Brandon Cornell – who is expected to start Wednesday’s game against 11-0 Whiteoak – struck out 14 batters in the five inning game.
“I was just up there throwing – doing what I do. Just going up there and pitching and having fun,” said Cornell. “I had my defense to back me up if they did hit it, but I was just having fun.”
Cornell also pitched the Dragons’ closest contest to date – a 9-8 win over Fairfield that ended with a double from Alex Hirsch in the bottom of the seventh that scored three runs.
The hero in that one – Hirsch – took the mound for West Union’s other victory this season. He pitched all seven innings against North Adams in the 10-6 win that moved the Dragons to 5-0 entering Tuesday’s game with Eastern.
While the number of strikeouts in some of the games early on helps, the West Union pitchers have had help from their teammates behind them. Through the first three games, they had only a combined two errors and they both came in the season opener with the Greyhounds.
On Tuesday, it was only one error against Eastern and several great plays to escape jams, including a sliding play in the third from Cornell at shortstop that resulted in a force out at second, keeping the Warriors scoreless.
“Coach really pushes us hard on where to throw the ball and where to put the ball and how to do it,” said Cornell. “He’s a real good coach and he knows what he’s talking about.”
Eastern did manage to get two runs across in the game – one in the fourth on a single from Christopher Broughton and another in the sixth on another single from Broughton.
But West Union’s bats were too much in the game, like they have been all year.
The Dragons have had several players throughout the lineup contributing offensively in the early going, with at least three different players recording RBIs in every game. Against the Blue Jays, eight different players recorded RBIs, including Hirsch, who had five. He also had five in the next game against Fairfield and a team-high three against North Adams.
“I think one thing about hitting – it’s really contagious. You get one guy hitting, and then the next guys says, ‘Now it’s my turn.’ And the next guys says, ‘Well, now it’s my turn,’” said Kramer. “I think hitting builds confidence with everybody and I think everybody is anxious to get to the plate and get their shot.”
West Union’s offense got going in the top of the third on Tuesday, scoring on balls hit by Cornell, Dylan Grooms and Fenton. They added three more the next inning with the help of a double from Cornell and another single from Fenton, before collecting a seventh run in the fifth when Ryan Rothwell singled off of Andres Vargas, who entered after Schmid put the first two batters of the inning on base. West Union scored their final two runs in the sixth following a leadoff double from Cornell.
Now the Dragons will face their toughest test yet and Kramer, keeping relaxed and having fun, knows exactly what it’ll take to come away with a win.
“More runs than them.”
2B- Cornell 2 (WU)
LOB- Eastern Brown 8, West Union 8
WP- Fenton. LP- Schmid.
Records: West Union 6-0, Eastern Brown 1-8