Long Ball and Stellar Pitching Propels No. 2 Wall to Opening Day Win
WALL, TX—With the wind blowing out to right field, the second ranked Wall Hawks utilized the long ball to seal a 10-2 opening day victory over Bangs on Monday in their first official game since the 2017 State Finals.
“It’s always hard to get a read on how you’re going to be in the first game of the year,” said Wall Head Coach Jason Schniers. “We’ve been playing well in the scrimmages. But you don’t ever know until you get in to that first game.
Texas Tech signee Dryden Virden took to the mound in game one of Wall’s 2018 season. The two-sport athlete got a ground out and a fly out for the first two outs in the top of the first before giving up a solo shot to Bangs to make the score 1-0 in favor of the Dragons.
Virden would then work around a two-out walk to record the final out of the first.
In the home half of the first, the Hawks got things going in a hurry.
Following a ground out by Brock Rosenquist and a walk by Jake Jansa, Tanner Seider would find the hole in right field for a double to put runners on second and third. A walk by Virden would load the bases for Caleb Heuertz.
After working in to a 3-2 count, Heuertz, who is also a basketball player for Wall, would send a towering grand slam over the center field fence in his first plate appearance after missing a portion of the preseason due to basketball obligations.
“Last week was his first week of practice,” Schniers said. “Then he was sick towards the end of last week. So he hadn’t really seen any live pitching. For his first at bat, he got in to a full count and worked to foul off a few tough pitches. Then he was able to take advantage of a pitch on the outer half and went with it.”
Wall would take a 4-1 lead to the second inning.
In the second, Bangs would draw a leadoff walk off of Virden before the Wall ace struck out the next three batters he faced.
In the bottom of the third, Wall junior Gage Weishuhn would notch an RBI by scoring Mitchell Horton on a ground out
Virden would go three innings to get the decision, allowing just two hits and one run while striking out six. Dryden would also go 2-for-3 at the plate including a walk, two runs scored and an RBI ground out in the bottom of the fourth
Virden would make way on the bump in the fourth for recent Angelo State football signee Horton. Horton would go two innings for the Hawks, allowing a run on a fielder’s choice in the top of the fourth to make it 5-2 in favor of the Hawks before Jake Jansa laced a double to the center field fence to score Rosenquist following his triple to put Wall up 6-2.
Thanks to Jansa stealing third and an error on Bangs’ catcher the Hawks would plate another run to go up 7-2 before Virden’s RBI ground out put the Hawks up 8-2.
Horton would finish out the fifth inning to go two innings in relief of Virden. Mitchell allowed three hits and one run while striking out two.
Coming in to shut the door on the Dragons in the final two frames was senior Mark Nikolauk. Nikolauk was perfect and sat down five Dragons in his two innings of relief.
Combined, the Hawks’ pitching staff tossed 120 pitches with 75 of them finding the strike zone.
“I thought our pitchers have done what they’ve done in preparation for the season in throwing strikes,” Schniers emphasized. “If we throw strikes, we’re going to be successful. Our pitchers did that today between Virden, Horton and Nikolauk. They did a good job keeping [Bangs] off-balance. And when they did put the ball in play, our guys made plays.”
Schniers also emphasized how crucial the depth of his pitching staff will be this season after losing Ryan Gully for the season due to injury.
While Bangs had finished their scoring for the day, Seider wanted in on the action for the Hawks in the sixth inning when he sent a mammoth two-run shot over the right field wall to give the Hawks their winning 10-2 margin.
Nikolauk would strikeout the side in the seventh to close out the win for the Hawks.
The Hawks are now 1-0 as they head to Shallowater for the Shallowater Tournament Feb. 22-24.