Washington & Jefferson College third baseman Kyle McLain knows how much easier his baseball team can breathe if the Presidents strike early.
With an early onslaught of runs during a pair of Presidents’ Athletic Conference games against Waynesburg at Ross Memorial Park Tuesday, W&J’s pitching staff had a rather breezy day – and not just because of the weather.
W&J scored a total of 20 runs during the first, second and third innings of the two games combined, sweeping the Yellow Jackets by scores of 9-2 and 13-4.
“We got on them early,” said McLain, who went three for six with four RBI and two runs scored on the cold and windy day. “Our coaches have been all over us to get on them early. We jumped on a lot of first-pitch fastballs. We swung it well today.”
The win gives W&J (7-1, 10-5) some momentum heading into a Friday-Saturday series against Grove City and a Sunday game against NCAA Division III powerhouse Marietta.
Waynesburg fell to 2-3, 9-8, its momentum from taking two of three from Bethany over the weekend snapped. Yellow Jackets coach Mike Humiston declined an interview request after the doubleheader.
W&J pounded out 10 hits in the first game, 15 more in the second for a breakout performance that head coach Jeff Mountain has been waiting for since his team returned from a trip to Florida in mid-March, a trip where the Presidents lost four of seven games.
“We struggled down in Florida,” Mountain explained. “Played a good schedule down there. I think some of hitters took their lumps a little bit. I almost feel as though they have brought that with them a little bit.”
That much was evident over the weekend, when W&J went 2-1 against Geneva – a bottom-tier PAC team – scoring just five runs over the final two games of the series.
“We struggled in the series against Geneva, more than we ever should have,” Mountain said. “But it’s like any sport: Defense beats offense, and we’ve run into some good pitchers.
“But you also can’t get three hits in every at-bat. You have to play, you have to swing it, take it at-bat to at-bat. We’re better when we’re aggressive. There have been times when we haven’t been aggressive. We were more aggressive (Tuesday).”
The Presidents took control of the second game with seven runs on eight hits in the first inning, including a stretch of six consecutive singles.
Second baseman Scott Liller, first baseman D.J. Michalski, designated hitter Ronny Peirish, third baseman Kyle McClain, catcher Kyle Schultz (two) and center field Scott Brady drove in runs.
Earlier, Brady prevented a run by sprinting forward and to his right to make a magnificent, diving catch in the top of the first to rob Waynesburg first baseman Bobby Hartman.
W&J added three runs in the second inning, including a single – with a three-base, two-run error – from W&J left fielder Derek McIlvaine, a Chartiers-Houston graduate.
Randy Risch earned the win, allowing four runs (none earned) on six hits while striking out four and walking one in four innings.
In the opener, W&J ace Eddie Nogay doubled his season walk total – though that still only raised the number to six – but the Presidents cruised to a 9-2 win, scoring three runs in each of the first three innings.
Nogay, who walked four and struck out seven over six innings, improved his record to 5-0 this season. He is now 15-0 over his impressive career.
In winning all five of his starts, Nogay, a junior right-hander from Madonna High School in Weirton, W.Va., has allowed four runs in 32 innings.
“It was pretty cold today,” Nogay said. “There’s no excuses. Just try to throw the ball over the plate and stay warm.”
McLain and designated hitter John Kutzfara had back-to-back doubles in the first inning to give the Presidents a 3-0 lead.
A pair of errors on Waynesburg shortstop Kyle Sasala, plus an infield single from W&J right fielder Josh Staniscia (three hits, two RBI), led to a 6-0 lead for the Presidents after two.
Liller and Staniscia had RBI singles in the third, and Michalski’s double play made for three in the third.
Nogay stretched his scoreless inning streak to 17 2/3 before Roman, who has a hit in 15 of his past 20 at-bats, drove home second baseman David Houseman for Waynesburg’s first run.
“He definitely didn’t look comfortable,” Mountain said of Nogay. “I don’t know if it was the weather or throwing on three days rest or a combination of both. But he was not comfortable. He was not real sharp. He would be the first to admit it. Like the good pitcher he is, he found a way, gave us a good start, and it’s a testament to him that he was able to do that.”
Right fielder Adam Horning added a sacrifice fly in the sixth for the Yellow Jackets’ final run.
J. Jay Paskert, a Washington graduate, gave up nine runs – six earned – on nine hits in three innings for Waynesburg.