JOE HASENSTAB | Staff Reporter
The Butler baseball team was supposed to play three games last weekend in North Carolina. Mother Nature decided against that.
But she could not stop the Bulldogs (1-1) from getting their first win of the season.
Major snowstorms hit the East Coast and cancelled the team’s scheduled flight last Thursday. The weather left many college teams with cancelled games and nowhere to play.
Two games were quickly scheduled for Butler in Nashville, Tenn., against Illinois State. The squads faced off Saturday and Sunday.
The Bulldogs came ready to play with an early start Sunday, in what turned out to be a competitive game. Butler scored six runs through seven innings and headed into the eighth inning with a two-run lead.
The Redbirds fought back to score a run in both the eighth and the ninth innings to tie the game at six. After the Bulldogs failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, the game headed to extra innings.
Junior relief pitcher Kyle Allen put down the Redbirds in order in the top of the 10th.
After sophomore outfielder Drew Small led off with a single, freshman infielder Alex Horowitz bunted the ball back to the pitcher. Small was able to slide in safely ahead of the throw.
Another sacrifice bunt from junior outfielder Michael Fries put runners on second and third for sophomore cleanup hitter Quincy Quintero. He was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a double play.
Sophomore Nick Bartolone spoiled the Redbirds’ plan, however, when he struck a single into centerfield and sent Butler home with a 7-6 victory.
The first game of the season on Saturday did not go the way the Bulldogs hoped. Illinois State’s offense was too much for senior left-hander Eric Stout, and Butler fell by a score of 9-1.
Senior infielder Marco Caponi said the team recognizes how important it was to get the win following a loss.
“It’s always important to get a win early. It gets things going, (and) it gets people excited,” Caponi said. “We had a tough one (Saturday). We didn’t play real well. So it’s good that we bounced back.”
The caliber of team the Bulldogs beat is also a positive for the team, senior pitcher Billy Laing said.
“(The win) was awesome, especially since Illinois State is the defending Missouri Valley champion,” Laing said. “The Missouri Valley Conference is a really good conference, and they’re a really good program.
“(On Saturday) we were really disappointed in how we played, so to come out and get a huge win like that, it can just set the table for our entire season.”
This weekend, the Bulldogs are scheduled to travel to South Carolina for games against Pittsburgh, Wofford and South Carolina Upstate. Laing said the games will be tough, but added that the Bulldogs expect to win at least two of the three.
“Pitt is a very good team. I think they’re projected to win the ACC,” Laing said. “They have a very good pitching staff, so we’ll have our work cut out for us opening night, but I think we should be able to compete. We’ll be throwing Eric Stout Friday night, and he should get us going.”