Herald Staff Report
DUBUQUE — Lightning didn’t strike twice.
Two days after their scheduled season opener was interrupted, then postponed, by lightning, the Clinton River Kings were able to dodge the rain and beat Dubuque Hempstead 3-2 in high school baseball Wednesday evening.
They duplicated their ways from last year — when 19 of their 20 wins came in comeback fashion — by tying the game with a run in the fifth inning, then scoring twice in the sixth to go ahead.
“This was a good win,” Clinton coach Kevin Cunningham said.
Clinton got a strong performance from freshman starting pitcher Cole Pennock. He earned the win by pitching five innings of two-hit ball. He then gave up a leadoff hit and a walk in the sixth and was replaced by senior Ryan Driscoll. He preserved the win and earned the save.
“He’s been a really good closer for me,” Cunningham, starting his second year as the Kings’ coach, said. “We will need him to start a bit.”
Cunningham was impressed with Pennock, a left-hander who saw limited action last year as an eighth-grader.
“He threw well,” Cunningham said. “At 6-(foot)-6, his ball just explodes. He had good command of all his pitches. He’s played a lot of competitive baseball and is very poised.
Clinton managed just six hits off Hempstead’s pitching, but that was enough.
Nobody had more than one hit, but Dustin Caldwell singled, walked and stole two bases. Jake Simpson, Evan Jackson and Cody Nolan, the bottom three batters in the lineup drove, in the runs. Courtesy runner Nate Harden scored twice for Clinton.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of offense,” Cunningham said.
They did make a big defensive play, though.
“Jake Faur, our catcher who had a hit and threw out three of five runners, probably made the play of the game,” Cunningham said. “They had a runner on third, and it looked like there was going to be a wild pitch for the tying run. But he got after it pretty quick, the guy stopped halfway down the line, and (Faur) picked him off.”
Cunningham said Faur, a sophomore, was one of the additions who should help the River Kings this season.
“I would say Jake probably has one of the higher baseball IQs in our program,” Cunningham said. “He has played a tremenous amount of baseball before joining the high school team.”
Cunningham is looking for good results this season. He said the team had a good combination of talents.
“Speed will be a big key to our success,” he said. “We know our hitting will come around. We have a solid defense. Probably our biggest improvement is we have more depth in pitching.”
Simpson, Trey Franks and Rodney Witherspoon all return, along with Driscoll. Senior John Gunderson is out for baseball after a year away, junior Jordan Chapman can pitch when not playing first base, and sophomores Faur and Murray Henricks also will see time on the mound, Cunningham said.
Clinton plays its home opener Friday against Dubuque Senior, then hosts the River Kings Invitational on Saturday at Eagle Heights Elementary School. The Kings take on Northeast in the first game and Preston faces Camanche around noon. The third-place and championship games will follow in the afternoon.
Sabers top Indians
CAMANCHE — Four Central DeWitt pitchers limited Camanche to a pair of hits Wednesday as the Sabers picked up a 7-1 non-conference victory.
Marty Green and Austin Lechtenberg each scored a pair of runs for Central DeWitt.
Marquette does it again
PRESTON — Marquette Catholic pulled off its third come-from-behind win in two days Tuesday when it scored once in the sixth inning to tie the game and tallied the winning run in the top of the ninth inning to beat Preston 7-6.
The Mohawks (3-0) led 5-0 after two innings, but Preston scored in each of the next three innings to go ahead 6-5.
Parker Pankowski homered and drove in three runs for the Mohawks. Tom Draus added a pair of RBIs. Grant Kilburg earned the win in relief.
MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 7, PRESTON 6
Marquette 230 001 001 — 7 10
Preston 002 310 000 — 6 7
Jesse Banowetz (3 ip, 6 h, 3 r, 3 er, 1 bb, 0 so), Kendall Steines (0 ip, 0 h, 2 r, 2 er, 2 bb, 0 so), Colin Reeg (1 1/3 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 0 er, 3 bb, 2 so), Grant Kilburg (4 2/3 ip ,0 h, 0 r, 4 bb, 6 so) and Jake Gerlach. Multiple hits — Marquette (Parker Pankowski 2, Gerlach 2, Steines 2). HR — Marquette (Pankowski). RBIs — Marquette (Pankowski 3, Tom Draus 2, Gerlach).