MINERVA-Due to winter's prolonged grip, the Salem baseball team was not able to set foot on a field until yesterday. It showed.
The Quakers committed nine errors on their way to a ragged 13-3 six-inning loss to Minerva Tuesday at Minerva Middle School.
"All we've been able to do is throw a little bit in the outfield," Salem senior Alex Weikart said. "When you have a young team like we do it's a tough to go from taking infield in the gym to being outside."
It was the Northeastern Buckeye Conference opener for both teams. Salem falls to 0-1 overall and 0-1 in the NBC. Minerva moves to 2-0, 1-0.
Weikart started on the mound and took the loss for the Quakers, whose shaky fielding allowed the Lions to steadily pull away. Salem committed at least one error in each inning.
"We looked like a team that was playing on the field for the first time all year," Salem coach Gary Martin said. "The mistakes really added up for us."
Catcher Andrew Robbins led Salem with two singles and a run scored. He came home in the first on an RBI single by Jordan McGuire to give the Quakers an early lead, but it was all downhill from there.
Minerva took the lead with two runs in the second and exploded for four in the fourth to establish a 7-1 lead. In both innings, the Quakers misplayed potential double-play balls back to the mound which opened the door to most of the Lions' scoring. The Lions were led offensively by Matt Treep with a double, a single and an RBI, while Austin Catlett had two singles and three runs scored.
"Those fielding mistakes opened the floodgates," Martin said. "We are looking at completely different situations if we make some plays. We can't afford to give teams that many extra outs and expect to be competitive."
Senior Jansten Locke picked up the win for Minerva, throwing five sharp innings. The Quakers had two runners on with one out in both the first and fourth innings but Locke was able to wiggle free both times. It was Locke's first first pitching appearance in two years. He sat out last season to concentrate on AAU basketball.
"Jansten is a great athlete and has gotten stronger by playing basketball," Minerva coach Carl Michael said. "We really think he can help us on the mound this year."
"It felt great to be back out there," Locke said. "It was a little bit of a challenge to build back up my arm after being away for so long, but I thought I was sharp out there."
Minerva and Salem are scheduled to hook up again today at Salem, however, both Michael and Martin indicated that the game may be played at Minerva (with Salem as the home team) if Salem's field isn't ready.
Tuesday's game was originally scheduled to be played at Salem, but was moved.
Winds gusted to over 30 mph, creating a handful of adventuresome pop flies. Salem dropped two fly balls and Minerva misplayed a couple of foul popups.
"It made things all the more difficult for us," Martin said. "Being on the field for the first time and dealing with these conditions was tough."
Both coaches felt Canton South to be the overwhelming NBC favorite.
"They've won a bunch of district titles in a row and have nearly everybody back," Martin said. "(Coach) Trent McIlvain does a great job there."
"I think we can finish somewhere in the top four," Michael said.
Michael said Minerva's new turf football field enabled the Lions to practice outside much more than they normally would before the season.
"We were out there every possible day," Michael said. "I think it has helped our fielding tremendously. If you are able to field the ball, you have a chance to make a nice run during the season."
MI-Jansten Locke, wp, (5IP, 1ER, 1BB, 4K), Austin Catlett (1IP, 1ER, 3BB, 2K) and Mitch Croston,
SA-Alex Weikart, lp, (5 1/3IP, 5ER, 2BB, 5K), Jordan McGuire (1 2/3IP, 1ER, 0BB, 1K) and Andrew Robbins.