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La Salle-Peru baseball coach Matt Glupczynski has been harping on one message to his squad this spring.
“We’ve been preaching ‘Team’ since the first day in the gym,” the first-year Cavaliers coach said. “It’s really nice to see it start to slowly come together.” Like it did Monday against Sterling.
In L-P’s Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division opener, the Cavs received a little bit from everyone.
Eight different players had base hits, six different guys scored and five hitters drove in at least one run, all while senior Austin Smith settled in and handcuffed the Golden Warriors on the mound.
The team effort led to an 8-3 victory for L-P in the first of the three-game series.
“This was a great team victory,” Glupczynski said of his first NIB 12 West win. “The guys on the bench stayed in it all day, and our pitchers on the mound competed. On offense, everybody hit the ball up and down the lineup and contributed in some way.”
Down by a run after the first inning, the Cavs (4-2, 1-0 NIB 12 West) took the lead for good in a four-run second inning.
An RBI infield single by designated hitter Elliot Lewis tied the game, and a Sterling error gave the Cavs a 2-1 lead.
Smith — L-P’s No. 3 hitter — delivered the big blow with a two-run double to give L-P a 4-1 lead, an advantage the Cavs never surrendered.
“I think that inning brought up our spirits a little bit and got us going again,” Smith said.
Despite L-P taking the lead for good after the second inning, Smith was unable to keep Sterling at bay in the third as the Golden Warriors (4-4, 0-1 NIB 12 West) added two runs to pull to 4-3.
However, over the next three innings, Smith settled in as he didn’t allow a hit or run.
In all, he allowed three earned runs on five hits to record the victory on the rubber. “I think what changed was Austin started to get ‘Strike 1’ and he started working ahead of the hitters,” Glupczynski said. “The more you can work ahead on hitters, the more it puts you in the driver’s seat as a pitcher. He got ahead, and when they did put the ball in play we were able to make plays.”
L-P put away the game in the fourth when senior second baseman Adam Happ singled in a run, and Happ later scored on a passed ball to give the Cavs a 6-3 lead.
L-P added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings before Happ pitched an inning of scoreless relief to finish the Cavs’ victory.
“I think this win is a big confidence booster for us,” Smith said. “We really came together and played as a team. We all did our jobs, and it all worked out for the best.”
Smith led the way at the plate as he finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs, while senior center fielder and lead-off hitter Bret Storm scored twice.
Note: Weather permitting, the teams are scheduled to resume the three-game series today at Sterling and complete the series Thursday back at L-P. Cavs senior Kyle Jenkins is scheduled to pitch today with junior Kyle Rothrock set to pitch Thursday’s finale, Glupczynski said.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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