Ten walks and a step up in competition against O’Fallon was a bad combination Tuesday for the Columbia Eagles.
Columbia pitchers issued 10 walks, three of which led to a bases-clearing double in the second inning, and the Panthers hung an 8-3 defeat on the Eagles.
“We had 10 walks, and our pitchers got five ground ball outs,” Columbia coach Neal O’Donnell said. “We want our guys to pitch to contact, and we really didn’t give ourselves a chance today. When you’re behind hitters constantly, that stuff’s going to come back and haunt you.”
After Columbia starter Zach Rosecrans loaded the bases on three walks in the second inning, O’Fallon junior second baseman Hayden Juenger promptly unloaded them by smashing a three-run double into left field.
Juenger, who entered the game hitting .125 (1 for 8), did it while hitting in the No. 9 spot in the lineup for the Panthers (3-1).
“Hayden’s been struggling a little bit here early against some really good competition,” O’Fallon coach Jason Portz said. “He’s been working hard in practice and trying to get better, and today I felt like he took a good approach in BP (batting practice).
“He’s certainly working on things, and it paid off for him today in the game. It got us going a little bit.”
O’Fallon scored only one run in two of its first three games, sandwiched around a 9-0 victory over Moline. Portz was pleased to see some of the cold bats heat up a bit Tuesday.
“We haven’t scored many runs other than the Moline game, so it was nice to get on top early and let our defense and pitching take over from there,” Portz said.
Trailing 3-0, Columbia got two runs back in the bottom of the second on two Panther errors and a two-run double by Drew Drabant.
Columbia pitchers allowed a total of two hits in six innings Tuesday, but also surrendered six hits during the four-run sixth that broke things open.
Portz is still moving players up and down his order looking for a good fit.
“We really feel like we’ve got nine guys up and down our order that can hit anywhere in our order at any time,” said Portz, who had McKendree recruit Hayden Schaefer batting eighth and Juenger batting ninth. “It’s nice to have them in the bottom of the order. I feel like they’re two of the better players in our league, and Schaefer and Juenger sitting down there today did a great job for us.”
Schaefer had an RBI triple in the sixth for O’Fallon, followed by an RBI single by Missouri State recruit Josh Gibson and a run-scoring double by Nick Boone. Brayden Arnold also had an RBI hit in the frame.
O’Fallon catcher Chase Hackstadt had a sacrifice fly in the third.
O’Fallon pitchers Heath Zuber, Jaysn Miller and Lowery limited the Eagles to five hits, including an RBI single in the seventh by Shane Wilhelm.
“We really tried to up our schedule and challenge ourselves,” said O’Donnell, whose club was playing its second SWC team in four games. “Walking 10 guys today, we were going to have a hard time beating anybody. Against a quality program like that, I really didn’t feel like we gave ourselves a chance.”