Roundup: Niles baseball splits, softball swept by Wildcats
Published 3:58 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2023
THREE RIVERS — With one of the league’s youngest lineups, the Niles baseball team opened the Wolverine Conference season Tuesday by splitting a doubleheader at Three Rivers.
Jim Brawley’s Vikings won the opener 11-6 over the Wildcats before seeing a late rally fall short in a 5-4 loss to the hosts in the nightcap.
Despite the loss in game two, Brawley was impressed with how his team is battled, especially considering his starting lineup consists of two juniors while the remainder is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
Freshman pitcher Jaxen Racht took the loss in game two for Niles (3-3 overall, 1-1 league), but put forth a great performance on the hill.
“We tied it up late with a couple hits, but Three Rivers came back with a timely hit in the seventh inning,” Brawley said. “I’m proud of our kids. They are resilient and keep coming back. We were up big in the first game and gave up five runs late but then we battled back with four of our own. We just have to keep working hard to get better.”
Racht tossed the first 6 2/3 innings, allowing only two hits, two-earned runs, three walks with 11 strikeouts. Senior Brady Olsen relieved Racht and suffered the loss after giving up the winning hit, an RBI double to Wildcat sophomore Kaleb Williams that scored Mason Awe.
“Jaxen has been unbelievable so far for a freshman,” Brawley said. “He’s had two good outings and throws a fastball and curveball combination. He’s very special and we really love having him on our team.”
Niles trailed Three Rivers by a pair of runs entering the top of the seventh. The Vikings managed to score twice though with two outs in the frame to even the game up at 4-4.
“I just feel like this team really competes and never gives up,” Brawley added.
Drew Graver took the win in relief for Three Rivers (1-3) yielding one hit, two-earned runs and one walk. Drew McClain spun the first six frames for the ‘Cats giving up eight hits with three strikeouts.
Three Rivers tallied single runs in the first and third before. But Niles fought back to tie the contest with single markers in the fourth and fifth.
The Wildcats put up two runs on the board during in the bottom of the fifth frame for a 4-2 lead before the Vikings’ late rally.
Niles collected a total of nine hits in the nightcap. Dane Asmus, Alex Cole and Talon Brawley all collected doubles for the Vikings. Cole also had a stolen base.
Three Rivers committed three errors while Niles had two miscues in the field.
In the opener, Niles scored twice in the first before adding three more during the fourth, four in the sixth and two in the seventh.
Three Rivers scored five times in the fifth and added its final run during the seventh.
Junior Brian Gonzalez went the distance on the hill for Niles. Gonzalez gave up seven hits, four-earned runs, six walks with five strikeouts.
Olsen belted a home run for the Vikings and finished with three RBI, Racht added four hits and two RBI. Cole had a pair of hits and drove in two runs. Sam Rucker had one hit, three RBI and scored twice. Braylon Schultz walked three times.
Louis Smith had a hit and one RBI for Three Rivers.
Williams suffered the loss on the mound for the Wildcats allowing six hits with eight strikeouts.
“We played well enough to win that first game, but a few defensive miscues that cost us. In the second game we were fortunate to get a clutch hit when we needed it,” said Three Rivers coach Jason Williams. “Niles’ pitching is phenomenal with some good arms on their roster.”
It wasn’t as solid of a night, however, on the softball diamond as Niles was dealt two losses by Three Rivers 13-3 in five innings and 13-8 in the nightcap.
In the first game, Niles took a 1-0 lead after half an inning. Kloe Higgins doubled to lead off the frame, went to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on a passed ball.
Three Rivers (2-0) responded with three runs in the bottom half of the first. Junior pitcher Ava Forman had an RBI double to score Lanie Glass and Emily Ventrone belted a two-run triple.
Forman blasted a two-run double to score Allie McGlothlen and Gabby Charvat in the second frame and boost the Lady Cats’ lead to 5-1.
Niles scored twice in the third to cut its deficit to two, 5-3. Kiggins doubled and later scored on an error. The other Vikings’ run was scored by Annabelle Johnson on a fielder’s choice.
Three Rivers padded its lead with five runs in the fourth. Ventrone clubbed triple that plated Lanie Glass and Forman. Dani Glass added an RBI single to score Ventrone and London Hoffmaster added a two-run double for the hosts that scored Peyton Ware and Jennaya Decker.
Forman’s two-run homer in the fifth and an RBI double by Ventrone added three more Lady Cat runs and ended the game.
Forman picked up the win inside the circle for Three Rivers with six strikeouts.
Haylea Wilken was tagged with the loss for Niles. Wilken gave up 15 hits and three walks with two strikeouts.
In the nightcap, Three Rivers built a 6-2 lead after two innings.
Niles scored twice in the top of the third with Ashlynn Wilken and Kiggins tallying for the Vikings.
Three Rivers expanded its margin to 10-2 with a four-run third.
The Vikings would then score twice in the top of the fourth, cutting it to 10-4. Kayla Kiggins singled, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and scored after Johnson hit into a fielder’s choice. Haylea Wilken’s RBI single scored Laila with the other Vikings’ run in the frame.
Niles scored two runs on pair of hits and one error during the fifth and sliced the deficit to 10-6. Emerson Garrad walked and later scored when Johnson walked with the bases loaded. Emma Kiggins tallied the other Vikings’ run when she scored on an error.
Three Rivers added a run in its half of the frame for an 11-6 lead. Dani Glass’ single scored Charvat.
Niles added its final two runs in the sixth. Emma Kiggins’ flyball to right-field scored Kailyn Miller. Garrad’s sacrifice scored Kayla Kiggins.
Three Rivers tallied its last two runs in the sixth. Charvat ran home to score on a wild pitch and the other Lady Cat run came on an error.
Morgan Clanton took the loss in game two for Niles, allowing nine hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
Niles head coach Dale Myer saw some bright spots, but says his ballclub must shore up its defense moving forward.
“We need to be more aggressive in certain situations,” he said. “We aren’t hitting the ball as well as we should be. But we are getting there. This team doesn’t have a lot of depth, but its early in the season and hopefully we can improve.”
Ware posted the win for Three Rivers with two walks. Forman recorded the save.
Forman went 4-for-4 for Three Rivers in game one with the home run and pair of doubles and four RBI. Ventrone had three triples and four RBI.
Charvat had a double, triple and two stolen bases for Three Rivers in the nightcap. Forman added four hits, including a home run and three RBI. Charvat and Ventrone drove in three runs apiece.
“This was a great start to our season,” said Three Rivers coach Kendra Kutz. “Everyone contributed in both wins. These girls were on fire tonight at the plate. Everyone really stepped up and did their job. We have a pretty solid lineup 1-9. I was impressed too with how our freshman Dani Glass hit the ball tonight as well.”