Bobcats Drop Home Opener To Moniteau (04/11/2019)

Thus far in this young baseball season Clarion manager Rob Jewett has relied exclusively on Skylar Rhoades and Chase Kriebel to handle pitching duties, with the duo splitting time on the mound almost equally in each of the Bobcat’s first two games, both wins.

With this is mind, it came as no surprise to see several other players toe the rubber in Clarion’s non-conference game against Moniteau on Tuesday (April 9).

Unfortunately for Jewett, the pitcher with the hot hand did not reveal himself until the Warriors overcame an early deficit to spoil the Bobcat’s 2019 home opener, 7-5.

Discussing his use of four pitchers in the contest, Jewett said, “We need to see some guys throw other than Skylar and Chase. We need somebody else to step up. And that’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to throw a lot of arms out there, we might be throwing games by committee. That’s fine, whoever’s got the hot hand, whoever’s throwing strikes.”

Skyler Pastor, who threw 10 innings a season ago, got the start for Clarion. Pastor’s outing was short-lived, however, as control difficulties plagued the junior lefty.

After inducing a fly ball out from the first batter, Pastor, in order, walked Moniteau’s Hunter Fitzingo, hit Gage Neal, and issued another free pass to Jared Lominski. The Warriors scored their first run when Tyler McFadden walked, pushing Fitzingo across the plate.

Jewett commented on Pastor’s outing, noting, “Skyler’s got some things to work on, but I expect him to be a big contributor to this staff.”

Breckin Rex made his varsity pitching debut against Moniteau.

With bases loaded and only one out, Jewett called in Breckin Rex from the bullpen. Rex, a freshman making his first ever varsity appearance, was initially shaky, uncorking a wild pitch that scored Neal from third, making it a 2-0 game. After this miscue, however, Rex settled down and retired the next two via fly outs.

Moniteau starter Chance Nagy also experienced his share of first inning problems, walking Clarion’s one and two hitters, Cal German and Nate Datko. With two out, Cole Slaugenhoup doubled to left, plating German and moving Datko to third.

Lake Staub walked, filling the bases, with all crossing the plate when Kriebel hammered a line drive double to right, giving Clarion a 4-1 lead.

Rex walked Moniteau’s lead-off batter, Nagy, to open the second. A 6-4-3 twin killing started by shortstop Cal German bailed him out of the early jam, but more trouble lay ahead.

A two-out walk to Nagy, a Fitzingo single, and a four pitch walk to Neal juiced the bases for the Warriors. Lominski singled, plating two and knotting the game 4-4.

After another walk, Rex’s day was done, and Jewett looked to Nate Datko to get his team out of another bases loaded jam. Datko, a junior who had never pitched to this point in his varsity career, closed out the inning in one toss when Jakub Obman ground out.

Jewett was pleased with the way Rex responded to the challenge, saying, “Breckin did a nice job. He’s young, so he kind of ran out of gas a little bit.”

The third inning proved somewhat rough for Datko and the Bobcat defense. Lee DeMatteis led off with a double and was joined on the bases by Luke Pry, who was hit by a pitch. Nagy helped his own cause by singling to score DeMatteis and moving Pry to third. Pry raced home on a two-out wild pitch to Neal, giving Moniteau a 6-4 lead by the end of the frame.

Moniteau, paced by an inning ending double play in the second and two Nagy strike outs in the third and another in the fourth, kept Clarion off the board, preserving its lead heading into the bottom of the fifth, at which point Nagy gave way to Neal on the bump.

The Bobcats took advantage of Moniteau miscues to score their final run of the game in the fifth. Rhoades reached first on a two-out error by the second baseman, stealing his way into the scoring position. He raced home when the second sacker misplayed another ball, this one a liner off the bat of clean-up hitter Drew Wrhen, making the score 6-5.

Manager Rob Jewett and catcher Lake Staub congratulate Nate Datko after his outing on the mound. Datko fanned five.

Datko and the Bobcat nine settled in to a bend-but-don’t break style of play after the third, allowing Warrior base runners in the fourth, fifth, and sixth, but never permitting them to cross the plate. Datko was relieved by Kriebel with one out in the sixth.

“I thought Nate did a wonderful job coming in and throwing strikes. He hasn’t really pitched all that much. That was encouraging to see,” said Jewett.

Moniteau scored an insurance run in the seventh, a dropped third strike coming back to haunt Clarion, setting the final at 7-5 when the Bobcats left the tieing runs on base in the bottom of the stanza.

Assessing his team’s performance, Jewett said, “We battled against a very good team. Moniteau’s well coached, good fundamentals, they put the ball in play, they had some strong arms. But it was nice to see how we responded to a team like that. I thought we hurt ourselves a little bit with some walks, wild pitches. Errors will happen, that’s fine. The walks and wild pitches, that’s something we need to clean up.”

Asked what he told his team following the loss, Jewett replied, “Well I told them don’t forget, but don’t dwell. We did a lot of things good. Like I said, those were some solid pitchers and we put the ball in play for the most part. But there’s a lot of things we can learn from, and that’s the most you can take from a loss. Learn from it, don’t dwell on it. Kind of use it as motivation for tomorrow, we got a big game against Cranberry tomorrow (April 10).”

Chase Kriebel had a double and three RBI in the game.

The Bobcats tallied three hits, doubles by Kriebel and Slaugenhoup and a single off the bat of Rhoades. Kriebel notched three RBI and Slaugenhoup one.

Pastor pitched a third of an inning, surrendering two earned runs. Rex followed Pastor, hurling the next inning and a third. He gave up two earned runs. Datko threw three and two-thirds innings, during which he struck out five and allowed two earned runs. Kriebel closed out the game, pitching the final inning and a third. Like Datko, he struck out five.

Clarion traveled to Cranberry for a conference game on Wednesday (April 10) and are heading to Brockway for a non-conference tilt this afternoon (April 11).

(Featured image: Shortstop Cal German and second baseman Noah DiTullio start a double play in the second; photographs courtesy of Christie Datko)

(adapted from an article by this author in the 04/11/2019 edition of The Clarion News)