What was supposed to be the second matchup of a best-of-three series ended up being the series opener Friday night when the Riverside Bulldogs faced perennial power East Union in a 2A playoff meeting. The series was slated to start Thursday night at the Urchins’ home field in Blue Springs but Mother Nature had other plans and forced the opener to be pushed back to Friday night on the Bulldogs’ home diamond in Avon.
With victories on both Friday and Saturday, East Union would go on to win the series 2 games to 0.
In Friday’s first game, Riverside put up a fight early against the highly touted Urchins. The three runs East Union scored in the first inning were unearned and the Bulldogs remained positive as they looked to pick up their defensive play moving forward. However, the third inning wasn’t as favorable. The Bulldogs fell into a hole that they were unable to climb out of, surrendering several runs that put the game out of reach and allowed the Urchins to climb to a 10-0 lead before winning the series opener, 13-0.
“It didn’t go like we wanted it to but it’s a three-game series and I thought they had trouble early with the breaking stuff and the slower stuff,” said Riverside head coach Boo Ellis. “We had one bad inning pitching wise and they scored a lot of runs that inning to kind of put it away. They will see some guys tomorrow that are a little bit slower and a lot of junk – curveballs and changeups. That’s going to be the plan tomorrow.”
Despite the Urchins plating more than a dozen runs, Coach Ellis saw some positive things from his young squad as they faced a talented southpaw on the mound in senior Carter Phillips. “I thought we hit the ball well tonight,” he said. “We had five or six hits. That guy was pretty good. He’s a left-handed pitcher and every base hit we had was up the middle or away and that’s what we’re supposed to do with lefties. I thought our approach tonight at the plate was pretty good, overall.”
Jason Irion caught Ellis’ attention as well. The sophomore got the nod on the bump and looked impressive in his start.
“I thought Jason threw great in the first inning but I wanted to save him for the second game,” he said. “He was at about 22 pitches and we didn’t give him much help on defense. I told him that all of the runs he gave up were unearned in the first inning and he was positive about it but we have to play better defense behind him and make those plays to get out of the inning. Then, he can maybe throw the second inning but we didn’t do that.”
Ellis said, “If it gets to the third game, anything can happen. That’s our main focus right now. We have to force a third game. That’s where we have to be tomorrow. We’ll get up early in the morning, have a good trip, stop and eat some breakfast, and be positive about this.”
Freshman Abraham Ramirez came in to close out the game for the Bulldogs and fanned a few batters to give the home fans something to cheer about.
“Abraham is a great athlete that plays baseball,” said Ellis. “A lot of folks don’t realize that he has not played a lot of baseball. It’s just his second year to play baseball. He’s athletic, he’s going to get better. I like him a lot. He’s going to be one of those guys that we count on down the road, next year and the year after that. I’m excited about him.”
East Union won Saturday’s second game 11-1.