By Shannon Heaton
For the Herald
CLINTON — As a concession worker at Alliant Energy Field for Clinton LumberKings games, Austin Krick gets more than just the usual home-field feeling from the ballpark.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, therefore, that Krick had a feeling he would get a home run in this, the first week of the Clinton River Kings' baseball season.
On the sixth pitch he faced from Dubuque Senior pitcher Andrew Powers, Krick made good on that feeling, lofting the pitch 360-plus feet over the left-field fence — on a trajectory close to the first tower of lights over from the foul line — to jump-start Clinton's scoring.
Barely an hour later, the River Kings were halted only by the 10-run rule, after battering Powers and reliever Tyler Saeugling for 14 hits — seven of those, including Krick's home run, for extra bases — in an 18-1, 41⁄2-inning non-conference rout at Alliant Friday night.
“I'm feeling good at the plate, feeling pretty confident, ready to hit a couple more (today, at Clinton's all-day River King Classic, which starts at 10 a.m.),” Krick said of his and his team's first home run of 2009.
“Right off the bat, I knew I'd gotten everything into it.”
Clinton (2-0) scored nine runs in the third and seven more in the fourth, and then pitcher Jake Mangler retired the Rams in order in the top of the fifth to end the game for his team.
But the contest was effectively decided long before that, largely because the River Kings took advantage to jump all over every opportunity that Powers and Saeugling gave them.
“I think everybody's getting along, we have good team chemistry, and practices have been very good. Everybody's worked hard to get to this point, and that's why success has come around early this year,” Krick (3-for-3, with two doubles and five RBIs to go with the home run) said.
Obviously, it wasn't just a one-man show. Every starter either drove in a run or scored at least one, and all but one starter got at least one hit. But Clinton head coach Trent Snowden didn't want to call the season in his team's favor entirely too soon.
“We've probably scored, in the two games, 20-plus runs, but at the same token, the opponents have probably given us seven or eight of those runs, too. Tonight, it probably happened three or four times, that I could count, where the flyball dropped in. Obviously, we're not going to score that many runs (every game) for the season, but we've hit the ball pretty hard so far,” Snowden said.
Mangler was largely effective, needing just 70 pitches for the complete-game victory. He gave up a double to open the fourth, which turned into a Rams runner on third base via an error. That runner later scored on a routine groundout that — were it a close game, against a Mississippi Athletic Conference opponent — would have ended in a throw home and probable shutout.
“With Jake, he seemed to get ahead on people in the count, and although he didn't throw a lot of off-speed pitches, he was able to get ahead,” Snowden said. “Our approach, what we're trying to do, is get on top. In the past, we'd get into a lot of 2-and-2, 3-and-2 counts. Then it seemed like the kid fouls three or four off, and then we're throwing 20 pitches to get him out. If you get ahead early, that's a lot less pitches you need to throw.”
And Mangler didn't seem to have too much rust for having just completed — days ago — a spring track season, but he admitted the generous run support certainly didn't hurt.
“We hit, and stuff like that, before we left for state (track), but it's hard to come back. I thought I could get ahead a few more times, but it was a good first start,” Mangler (1-0) said.
Justin Clark, Mangler, Tyler Redman, Tyler Voss and Jared Voss all drove in two runs each for Clinton, while Darryl Sexton was 3-for-3 and had two runs scored. Mangler and Clark each had RBI triples in the game.
“We have to take advantage of the home cooking we've got. Next week's going to be tough, with a lot of kids still in school and with us playing on the road a lot,” Snowden said.
Calamus-Wheatland, Northeast and Camanche will join the River Kings in the four-team Classic today, with semifinals at 10 a.m. and noon, the third-place game at 2 p.m. and the championship game set for approximately 4 p.m.
JV team rolls, too
In the first game Friday night, Clinton's junior-varsity team — comprised mainly of varsity reserves — exploded for a seven-run first inning en route to a 14-1, 41⁄2-inning victory.
Brent Clausen was 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs for the River Kings, while Jared Voss and Blake Pennock each drove in two runs. Steven Clark and Kyle Jackson combined to limit the Rams' JV team to just two hits.
Clinton 18, Dubuque Senior 1 (5 inns).
Senior 000 10 — 1 4 2
Clinton 209 7x — 18 14 2
Andrew Powers, Tyler Saeguling (3) and Paul Schlosser; Jake Mangler and Shawn Winoski, Brent Clausen (5). WP -- Mangler (1-0). LP -- Powers. Two or more hits -- Clinton (Austin Krick 3, Tyler Redman 2, Darryl Sexton 3). 2B -- Senior (Ryan Hill), Clinton (Winoski, Krick 2, Jared Voss). 3B -- Clinton (Justin Clark, Mangler). HR -- Clinton (Krick). RBI -- Senior (Brandon Walker), Clinton (Clark 2, Mangler 2, Krick 5, Redman 2, Sexton, Jared Jones, Tyler Voss 2, J. Voss 2). Records -- Clinton 2-0. Next -- Clinton hosts River King Invitational, today, Alliant Energy Field (semifinals at 10 a.m. and noon, third-place game 2 p.m., championship 4 p.m.)
Clinton 14, Dubuque Senior 1 (5 inns.)
Senior 100 00 — 1 2 4
Clinton 713 3x — 14 12 2
Andy Zelinskas, Paul Schlosser (3); Steven Clark, Kyle Jackson (4) and Brent Clausen. WP -- Clark. LP -- Zelinskas. Two or more hits -- Clinton (Adam Young 2, Clausen 3, Clark 3). 2B -- Senior (Huss); Clinton (Clausen 2, Jared Jones, Jared Voss, Clark). 3B -- Clinton (Young). RBI -- Clinton (Young, Clausen 4, Jones, J. Voss 2, Blake Pennock 2, Clark).
By Shannon Heaton