Sometimes the best thing that can happen to a highly ranked team is to lose. Hopefully, we can look back on the first loss of the season by the Pioneers in their home opener on Friday and confirm it being a positive.
Although the Pioneers out hit Luna College in game one on Friday four hits to three from Luna, Western failed to generate anything meaningful and dropped the first game in a five game set 2-1.
Carlos Pimentel was on the bump for the Pioneers and yielded only three hits in five innings before flame-throwing freshman Angel Reyes came on to hold Luna at 2-0. In the bottom of the 6th inning following Reyes ending Luna’s top half with three strikeouts, Western looked to be in business with the lead off reaching on a hit by pitch.
Before anything could build on that, the Luna left-hander picked the Pioneer off of first base. That was only one of two Pioneers picked off in that bottom of the 6th inning. Of course this killed any momentum Western had built.
“We didn’t play hungry,” said coach Kurt Russell. “We can’t cheat ourselves like that and we won’t. We have to play much smarter and understand the situations.”
Russell was understandably frustrated with players striking out with runners in scoring position throughout that game.
“Carlos (Pimentel) pitched plenty good enough for us today,” said Russell. “We have to compete better than what we did at the plate.”
Game two came with its own set of frustrations. Josh Anthony led the attack in the bottom half of the first inning with a solo shot. That is Anthony’s second on the season already.
After Jake Benolken’s hammer grand slammer to right field in the bottom half of the 2nd inning, the Pioneers were up 9-0.
“We took our foot off of the gas,” said Russell. “We can’t do that. If we are going to reach the goals we have for this season, we have to keep our foot down and never let up. We started thinking we were good again and quit going after them.”
The final was 9-4 in the second game.
The Pioneers are third in the nation in home runs already this year.
However, more telling than that is the opponents batting average is .137 good enough for second in the nation.
Western is 2-1 on the year and played games three and four Saturday at noon against Luna. Game five of the set is Sunday at noon.
Pioneers have some serious arms and good sticks and defense. This team needs some mental toughness and can’t take their ranking for granted.
“We have to continue to play like we have here for several years now,” said Russell. “We have to play hungry.”
Reach Brad Gilbert
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