CLINTON — The fans were out in force Monday night supporting the Clinton River Kings as they hosted Muscatine for a Mississippi Athletic Conference doubleheader.
It was a beautiful night for baseball with a comfortable breeze blowing right to left, no humidity and temperature in the 70s. The only thing better than the weather was Clinton High freshman left-hander Cole Pennock, who continued his recent dominance at home against the Muskies.
Spectators may have been hoping for the pitching matchup of Pennock against Muscatine’s Derek Burkamper, but the Muskies held their ace off for the second game. That led to a split, with Clinton winning Game 1 6-0 and Muscatine winning game 2 10-0.
Burkamper made headlines recently by turning down a chance at professional baseball to fulfill his commitment to the University of Nebraska. He was drafted in the 20th round of this year’s draft but chose to hone his craft in college while gaining an education.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
The Pennock-Burkamper matchup would have been a great one to witness, but Pennock didn’t disappoint by twirling his second shutout in a row for the River Kings. As in his previous outing against Burlington, Pennock was dominant from the left side, extending his streak of scoreless innings to 12 while spreading out six hits on the night. He had spot-on control, striking out four and not walking a batter.
“Outstanding again. He’s pitching with a great amount of confidence right now. Anytime you get a pitcher that’s pitching with confidence, they can be tough to beat,” Clinton coach Kevin Cunningham said.
Only one batter reached third base for the Muskies against the young lefty, when catcher Trent Herman made it that far in the fourth, but that was the only real threat Muscatine put up in the first game.
Muskies starter Eric Torres did not fair nearly as well, failing to make it out of the second. He issued five free passes to the River Kings in his 1 1/3 innings. The River Kings added two hits against Torres before he was pulled for Tucker Snider, who gave up two more hits, putting Clinton up 6-0 after two innings.
The two big blows came off the bats of shortstop Cody Nolan and left fielder Alex Caldwell, who each hit two-run singles. Nolan also had another RBI single in the second inning ahead of Caldwell’s big hit.
“It’s a lot easier when your whole team’s hitting; you get the momentum. You feel like once one person hits, everyone starts hitting,” Nolan said.
It was a good thing Pennock brought his ‘A’ game because after Snider came in and settled down, he shut down the Clinton offense, scattering five hits the rest of the game.
“When you can get six runs in the first two innings its pretty much, you just roll from there,” Pennock said.
Nolan continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs in Game 1 and recording the first hit for the River Kings in Game 2 during the fourth inning against Burkamper.
The tables were turned in Game 2 as Burkamper breezed through the Clinton lineup as Pennock had with the Muskies in the previous game. A few hiccups here and there didn’t slow Burkamper.
“I thought I located all my pitches real well,” Burkamper said. “You have to pitch backwards sometimes; come out with that curveball right away and then go with that fastball.”
The River Kings finally broke through against the talented righty in the third with their first baserunners, courtesy of two walks.
Nolan’s hit came an inning later, and then in the fifth, Ryan Driscoll led off with a single to the right side but was doubled up on a sharp line drive off the bat of Evan Jackson.
“It’s hard when you’ve got a good pitcher like that when you get down,” Clinton’s Dustin Caldwell said. “You know you’re not going to score many runs.”
Right-hander Trey Franks came in to pitch the top of the sixth with the River Kings trailing 6-0 and promptly got two outs on two pitches. Unfortunately, he could not get that third out of the inning. Things began to fall apart when Franks issued the first of three walks in the innings. Put together with two errors, two hits and a hit batter and Muscatine was able to push four more runs across the plate, extending its lead to 10-0
With the split, the River Kings improved to 19-8 as the season winds down and they begin to focus more on the state tournament, which is right around the corner.
“I’m excited with playoffs coming,” Cunningham said.
“This team’s got potential beyond any team I’ve ever played with before,” Pennock said.
Caldwell also shared his thoughts on the impending playoffs.
“I honestly just think we need to keep playing our game,” he said. “If we play our game we’ll have no problem.”
CLINTON 6, MUSCATINE 0
Muscatine 000 000 0 — 0 6 2
Clinton 330 000 x — 6 9 1
Torres (1 1/3 ip, 2 h, 6 r, 5 er, 5 bb, 2 so), Snider (4 2/3 ip, 7 h, 0 r, 0 er, 0 bb, 1 so) and Herman; Pennock (7 ip, 6 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 4 so) and Faur. Multiple hits — Muscatine (Herman 2); Clinton (D. Caldwell 2, Nolan 2, Jackson 2). RBIs — Clinton (Nolan 3, A. Caldwell 2).
MUSCATINE 10, CLINTON 0 (6 INNINGS)
Muscatine 032 104 — 10 10
Clinton 000 000 — 0 3
Burkamper (6 ip, 3 h, 0 r, 2 bb, 7 so) and Herman; R. Driscoll (2 ip, 3 h, 3 r, 3 er, 2 bb, 2 so), Simpson (3 ip, 5 h, 3 r, 3 er, 1 bb, 1 so), Franks (1 ip, 2 h, 4 r, 1 er, 3 bb, 0 so) and Faur, Henricks. Multiple hits — Muscatine (Moss 2, Calvert 2, Strajack 3). 2B — Muscatine (Strajack). RBIs — Muscatine (Moss 3, Calvert, Minder, Strajack 4).