After regional appearances in soccer and basketball earlier this school year, the Southwestern baseball team has a group of players who know how to win.
The Spartans, ranked third in Class 1A in the opening Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association poll, proved it in a 9-2 season-opening win against Eminence on Monday.
Some opening night jitters might have been the reason for an early 1-0 deficit, but once the offense got rolling, the Eels had no answer.
Coach Chris Engels said the Spartans return six players who started as freshmen and sophomores two years ago when high school baseball was last played in Indiana. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down all spring sports last school year.
“We’re expecting a lot of good things from them,” he said of those returning. “Today I thought we come out a little slow offensively, first live pitches of the year.”
Eminence took a one-run lead when Southwestern was unable to make a throw around the bases in the top of the first.
Freshman Trevyn Burnett scored on three throwing errors that allowed him to round the bases to home plate.
But the Spartans were quick to respond.
With junior Jordan Jones and senior Anick Hartsell on base with one out, both scored on a triple by senior Ethan Wendling.
The Spartans added a run by Jones on a double by Wendling in the third, and two more in the fifth when DeArmitt scored on a triple by sophomore Matthew Clements and Clements scored in the next at-bat on a single by Jonah DeArmitt.
“I thought as the game went on we got a lot better at the plate, a little more selective and drove the ball,” Ingels said
Eminence plated a run in the sixth when senior Daniel Kelsey scored on a wild pitch, but the Spartans left little doubt about the outcome in the bottom half of the inning.
Southwestern put itself in scoring position with three stolen bases and capitalized on Clements’ second triple of the game that drove in three runs. Jonah DeArmitt drove in another run for the seven-run lead.
The Spartans finished with nine hits, including three triples and a double. Both Jones and Christian DeArmitt reached base three times on a single, walk and hit by pitch and Clements also reached base three times on two triples and a walk.
Anick Hartsell reached base twice on a single and hit by pitch and Wendling tripled and doubled. Jonah Hartsell also singled twice.
DeArmitt started and pitched the first three innings, striking out three while allowing four hits.
Jones came in in relief, striking out two and giving up a hit in three innings.
“I thought they did a good job of first pitch strikes, and then they could throw, they could mix in their pitches a little more,” Ingels said. “Again, (this was the) first time they’ve faced batters this year and I thought they did a good job. (The) defense made a couple good plays when we were in situations with runners on base. Ethan made a couple good plays at third base. We turned a double play early in the game, things that I think we’re going to feel really confident with our infield.”
Anick Hartsell closed it out in the final inning, allowing one hit and striking out one batter.
Two years ago, the Spartans went 17-9.
“Having so many guys returning from that, a lot of teams know who we are, Ingels said. “We still have a lot to improve on. We still haven’t won a championship yet but we have high expectations. That’s fun to have but we have such fun guys and such competitors that I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”