SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
WINDSOR- Things started about as well as they could have for Windsor/Stew-Stras (0-1) on Thursday. On the first at-bat of the season, senior Alex Allen connected on a crushing home run over the left-field wall, and the Blue Devils led Shelbyville 1-0 one batter in.
The Blue Devil bats would go cold from there, however, as Windsor/Stew-Stras put only one more hit on the board over the final six innings. Shelbyville (1-0) used the strong arm of Andrew Hawkins, and had more than enough power at the plate to come away with a 5-1 victory in the Blue Devils' season opener.
"Alex Allen is a college-bound player, he's a heck of a player," Blue Devils' coach Rodney Monbrum said. "That was great. I thought here we go, here's a start to a great season. Unfortunately, that's our only run of the game, that's baseball."
Ahead 1-0 in the bottom of inning two, Blue Devils' first baseman Trey Leasher stretched for an incoming ball, but his foot was ruled off the bag to give the Rams their first base runner of the game. The ruling would come back to haunt Monbrum's squad when pitcher Christian Vonderheide walked Garrett Monship to load the bases two batters later. Luke McConnell doubled to right field on the ensuing at-bat, plating two runners and the Rams led 2-1 after two innings.
"We had an error there," Monbrum said, "when they called him off the bag on the stretch. That guy came around and scored. You have an error, they make you pay."
Now playing from behind, the Blue Devils struggled to generate any offense against Hawkins. The powerful righty tossed five innings and struck out six batters before being retired, surrendering just one hit, on the opening at-bat, in the process. For Monbrum, the issue was not that Hawkins wasn't impossible to hit, but rather that his players weren't aggressive at the plate.
"We got to hit him," Monbrum said. "We've got too good of guys in the lineup."
Shelbyville created some breathing room in the bottom of the fifth. With Zach Williams on third, Eli Miller hit a single to center field that plated Williams and brought Luke Hatfield to the plate. Down 0-2 in the count, Hatfield delivered a rocket that easily cleared the left field wall for a two-run shot to give the Rams a 5-1 lead with two innings remaining.
Windsor tried to muster a comeback in the top of the sixth behind the bat of Hayden Cole. With a runner on first after a walk, Cole drove one deep to center field where the ball may have mistakenly been judged a ground-rule double.
"Their outfielder said it was a home run," Monbrum said. "We still lose 5-3 but what are you going to do, I'm not going to get thrown out of the first game."
With runners on second and third and two outs, Justin Fulk grounded out to leave two runners stranded that could have potentially swung the momentum back in favor of the Blue Devils.
Down to one last chance in the top of the seventh, Windsor/Stew-Stras went three up, three down to fall short by a 5-1 final tally.
Vonderheide pitched three innings for the Blue Devils, allowing three hits and striking out three opponents in a losing effort. If it wasn't for a costly mistake at first, the ace would have kept the Rams off the scoreboard entirely.
"He threw fine," Monbrum said. "He didn't give up any runs if we keep our foot on the bag. Besides that one mistake our pitching was fine."
Ben Helton came in and pitched the remaining three frames, surrendering three runs on two hits for the Blue Devils. Shelbyville's Hawkins and reliever Jake Keown each allowed one hit, as the two combined to throw eight strikeouts. Though the Rams were certainly tough on the mound, Monbrum said the blame falls equally on his team's shoulders for their performance at the plate.
"That's not an excuse for only having two hits," he said. "We have to have better at-bats and better approaches at the plate. We're going to find guys that want to swing the bat."
Windsor/Stew-Stras will try to find the answer offensively when they take on Okaw Valley in Bethany.