MORRIS – Heading into Tuesday’s Illinois Valley Conference game against Shabbona, Coal City’s pitching staff had been put up some out-of-this-world numbers through 10 games. The Warriors were sporting a team ERA of 0.50 in running out to a 9-1 record in defense of their IESA Class 3A state championship, but coach Jerry McDowell knows there is always room for improvement on his team.
“We need to get our bats going,” he said before the game. “We have been pitching well, but there is going to be a time when we are going to need to score some runs. There’s no way we are going to shut everybody out.”
The Warriors got a breakout offensive performance Tuesday, as they scored 21 runs in three innings during a 21-2 win over the Braves.
Coal City wasted precious little time heating up, as the first three batters in the order – Mason Mulcahy, Ryan Wasielewski and Austin Pullara – reached base and scored. The Warriors (10-1) sent 10 batters to the plate in the first and led, 5-0, before taking the field. Key in the inning were a two-run single by Pullara and an RBI double by Connor Skubic.
Shabbona, however, did what few teams have done against the Warriors in the bottom of the first. The Braves scored. Ryan Cummings led off the bottom of the first with a single to left, then Scott Scamen singled off pitcher Alex Friddle’s foot. A wild pitch sent runners to second and third, and another brought Cummings home to make it 5-1. Friddle escaped the inning without further damage, setting up a Coal City explosion in the second.
With two outs and two runners on, Coal City’s Aaron McMurtry singled to right to score Pullara, who finished the day 4 for 4 with four RBIs and scored four times. McMurtry was the first in a string of 10 straight Warrior batters to reach base with two outs, eight with hits and two more in Shabbona errors. By the time they were done, 10 runs had scored and the Warriors led, 15-1. Coal City finished with 20 hits, four by Pullara and three by Drew Moir. Mulcahy, Wasielewski, Mickey McDowell, McMurtry and Skubic all had two hits.
“They put the ball in play and found the holes,” Shabbona coach Tony Dinello said. “We have a very young team, and we got to see what a state-championship caliber program looks like. They got to see what they can be if they dedicate themselves and work hard.
“Our pitchers were throwing strikes. We weren’t walking the bases loaded or anything like that. We were throwing strikes, and they were finding holes. They are a very good baseball team.”
In the bottom of the second, Shabbona’s Taylor Davis led off by getting to second on a throwing error, then went to third an out later when Colin Cummings singled up the middle. With Riley Kukman at the plate, Davis scored on a wild pitch to make it, 15-2.
Coal City got the hit parade going again in the top of the third, with four straight singles, a walk and a double. The Warriors turned a double play on defense in the bottom of the third to put the exclamation point on the win.
“We did a good job today,” McDowell said. “This was a good game for us to get some kids some playing time that don’t normally play a lot and take some pressure off. We’ll have some tight games again here this weekend in the IVC Tournament.”