PITTSBURG — St. Mary’s Colgan baseball notched a pair of CNC wins after taking two games, 4-1 and 8-1, from Galena Monday at Jaycee Ballpark.
Backed behind a pair of strong pitching performances, the Panther offense struck early in both contests, setting the pace for the sweep.
“We were able to jump out and get an early lead in both games,” SMC head coach Mike Watt said. “In baseball, if you get that early lead, it lets the kids relax a little bit, which, we did. Our pitchers did a great job today, I was very pleased with their work. Overall, it was a real solid performance.”
The sweep moves Colgan to 5-2 on the year, and 5-0 in CNC play this season.
“I think we are playing well, but we need to have more energy when we get to the ballpark,” Watt said. “I feel like our pitching staff is starting to fall into place. We are still putting our puzzle together, but it’s getting there.”
HIZEY DEALS PANTHERS TO OPENING WIN
SMC got 6.2 innings of one-run ball from start Zach Hizey in the opener. He surrendered four hits, two walks and seven strikeouts on the way to the win.
“Zach has been very good all year long,” Watt said. “Not only is he gaining confidence, but our team is building confidence as well. I told Zach at the start of the year that he had a chance to be one of the best pitchers in the CNC, and I think things are starting to fall in place for him.”
Hizey got early run support from his offense, which pushed two across home plate in the bottom of the first off of back-to-back, two-out singles to jump out to an early 2-0 lead.
“Anytime you get a two-out rally, it’s kind of a sense of a relief for everyone,” Watt said. “The kids get confident and it gives your pitcher a little more of a rest in between innings, instead of running back out there after a quick frame.”
Drew Beck drove in the first run of the game, singling to center field, bringing home Garrett VanBecelaere with two away in the inning.
Cade Simmons followed with a single to left-center field to bring home Max Wilson, who was courtesy running for Simon Higginbotham after he singled to shallow center earlier in the inning.
Bryce Hutchins gave the Panthers insurance in the last of the third, driving in a pair of runs on a single through the left side.
Colgan’s Parker Wydick came on to finish the game out, striking out the final batter of the game on four pitchers.
Garrett VanBecelaere and Higginbotham each had two hits.
Hutchins had a pair of hits and two RBIs.
SMC OFFENSE STEADY ON WAY TO SWEEP
Colgan scored in each of its first five trips to plate, tallying 12 knocks as a team on the way to the 8-1 win in the second half of the twinbill to complete the sweep of the Bulldogs.
“I thought we were much better at the plate today,” Watt said. “We were much more disciplined and didn’t take nearly as many strikes. We were a lot more aggressive on the first pitch, and that’s something we need to continue to work on.”
While the offense continued to build the lead, Colgan had another strong pitching performance in the second game, as starter Tyler Brynds went four scoreless innings and earned the win. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out three.
“He came out and was able to give me a strong four innings, which is a confidence builder for him,” Watt said. “As a pitching staff, we need to continue to focus on pitching with two outs in an inning, and he did that well tonight.”
Dominic Piccini pitched two innings and allowed one run on two hits, a walk and three strikeouts, while Simmons pitched a scoreless seventh inning and allowed two hits while striking out a pair.
As they did in the first game, the Panthers used two-out hitting to get on the board early in the second game.
Hutchins came up with a two-out single to right to drive home Wilson, who was courtesy running for Higginbotham after he started the rally with a double.
Beck kept the train moving after driving a ball off the base of the wall in right field for a double, scoring Hutchins to make the score 2-0.
Garrett VanBecelaere singled home Logan VanBecelaere in the second, and Simmons made the score 4-0 with an RBI ground out in the third.
The Panthers’ fifth run came in fourth after Garrett VanBecelaere purposely got caught in a rundown between first and second, giving Piccini enough time to touch home.
Simmons singled through the left side later in the inning with two away to score Garrett VanBecelaere and Whit Dungan to push the lead to 7-0.
Garrett VanBecelaere — who finished the game with two hits, two runs driven in and a run scored — picked up a second RBI single in the last of the fifth to put Colgan in front 8-0.
Hutchins had two hits, two runs scored and one RBI.
Simmons went 1-for-4 with a team-high three RBIs.
Beck had two hits and drove in one.
Piccini went 2-for-3 with two runs scored for the Panthers.
SMC baseball hits the road to take on Columbus at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.