Pine River baseball team sweeps Manistee

BIG RAPIDS — The Pine River Bucks and Manistee Chippewas wouldn’t let sloppy home fields stop them from opening their baseball season on Friday night as they kicked off play at the Big Rapids Rotary park with the Bucks playing as the home team.

The Bucks started their season off on a good note, picking up an 11-1 win in the first contest and a 15-1 victory in the nightcap.

The opening game got off to a quiet start for the Chippewas, who were only able to muster one hit on a double from Kreighton Rahn in their half of the inning. The Bucks answered right away on a Mitch McDonald single at the leadoff spot. Lucas Harris followed McDonald on base on a fielding error and Brandon Hoaglund hit a double in the rightfield gap to push Pine River out to a 2-0 lead in the first. The Bucks got another run before the inning was done to go up 3-0 heading into the second.

Manistee answered with a run of its own in the second on a hit from Matt Bauman, but that was the only run the Chippewas would get in their first game of the season.

The Bucks went on to score one run in both the third and fourth innings, and put up two in the fifth and four more in the sixth to take a 10-run mercy rule victory at 11-1 in the first game.

Greg Park stymied the Chippewas on the mound throughout the opener with eight strikeouts and just one hit in the win. On the offensive side Hoaglund went 3-4 with two doubles and three RBIs while Tony Moore brought three batters home on two hits. Harris tallied an in the park homerun in the third to help the Bucks cruise to victory.

“I thought the top of our order did a really nice job,” Pine River coach Shawn Ruppert said. “Mitch (McDonald), Brandon (Hoaglund) and Lucas (Harris) did a nice job, so I was real happy with the way the guys did up there, but our young guys did a great job too. I was happy with a lot of guys (Friday).”

The Chippewas went to Tanner Liston on the mound in the first game who pitched four innings and gave up five hits and three earned runs. Offensively, Liston went 1-2 while Kreighton Rahn went 1-3 with a double and Bauman went 1-2 with the lone Manistee RBI in the 11-1 loss.

“The biggest thing I was thinking is that I learned a lot because I haven’t seen a lot of these kids (on the field),” Manistee coach Troy Nezki said. “So now I have a little better idea of where they should be at in the lineup. I can see what things need to get fixed and you just don’t get to see that in the gym.

“Tanner Liston, Seth Pefley and Kreighton Rahn are three seniors that are returning and I thought they showed some great senior leadership out there and we’re definitely going to be leaning on them throughout this year.”

The Bucks kept the offense coming in the second game, plating four in the first inning alone against Manistee’s Andy Oleniczak. The Chippewas got a run on a Nolan Vanderweel shot down the rightfield line that scored Rahn. Unfortunately for the Chippewas, they had given up three runs in the second and would allow one more in the third, putting them down 8-1 after three innings.

After Manistee was held scoreless in the top of the fourth, the Buck bats came alive again, plating eight runs in the inning, pushing the lead to 15-1 to end things early.

McDonald hit two doubles in the nightcap and pitched three innings with four strikeouts and one earned run while Brady Long had a double and three RBIs. Hoaglund and Moore both added two RBIs apiece for the Bucks.

The Chippewas had six hits in the second game, with Liston going 1-2 while Vanderweel went 1-2 with a double and the lone RBI for Manistee.

“We’re real young, I have quite a few seniors but there’s some seniors that haven’t played baseball in six or seven years,” Nezki said. “I’m just pleased they want to come out and it’s an experience that they want to have. I think some of them are going to contribute for us.”

“I like how aggressive we were,” Ruppert said. “I thought we swung the bats and we didn’t just stand up there looking for walks, so I was happy with that. I thought our pitching was solid and we’re going to have to field more balls this year, we’re not going to strike as many people out, but I thought our pitchers did a good job (Friday). Our defense had a few mental lapses, but other than that I thought we were pretty solid.”

Pine River is at Reed City on Thursday.