(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- Breaking a five-game losing streak to start the season, the Charleston Squirrels got things going in the right direction Monday afternoon with a 4-1 win over the Poplar Bluff Express.
"The big difference in this game and the games that we played before is that we pumped strikes," Squirrels coach Michael Minner said. "(Starting pitcher) Brandon Peters threw his tail off. He was in full command of the zone."
Charleston kicked off the game taking an early lead as clean-up hitter Zach Rowland hit a line drive to center, scoring Cody Rice from second and giving the Squirrels a 1-0 lead.
Peters lone hiccup on the mound came in the home half of the first, when he allowed Mitchell Dennis to lead off the game with a double with Corey Kovach hitting a drive up the middle in the following at-bat to score Dennis from second.
While Peters held the Express at bay the rest of the contest, Charleston's offense continued to chip away at opposing pitcher Sheldon Edmundson.
Retaking the lead in the second, Charleston's Ethan Browning started off the inning with a walk before moving over to second on a steal.
Batting in the ninth spot, Peters would allow Browning to score with a single up the right field side to make it a 2-1 ball game.
With runners on second and third in the third inning, Charleston would add two insurance runs when Tyler Whybark hit a ball deep to center, scoring both James Naile and Rowland while leaving Whybark with a double.
"That felt great considering I was a bit rusty because I hadn't played in awhile," Whybark said.
Though both team's would have their share of base runners throughout the final four and a half frames, neither squad would produce another run.
Poplar Bluff would try to rally in the seventh with runners on first and second, but with two outs Kovach flied out to center to end the game.
"I thought we played a great ball game," Whybark said. "Our defense was on today. Peters threw strikes and we just backed him up."
In earning the win Peters went all seven innings only allowing the one run in the first.
He gave up eights and two walks while striking out six.
"I felt great," Peters said. "It was the best I've felt in a long time.
"I found my curve ball today and that was really helping me keep the batters off balance."
Peters was aided by solid play in the field including a play by right fielder Dustin Brister in the first in which Brister, after coming up with a ball in right, doubled off Kovach at first to help kill Poplar Bluff's rally.
Not to be outdone left fielder Jeff Long, after fielding a single by Mitchell in the third, threw out Jake Smith at the plate after Smith tried to score from second.
"The defense came up huge today," Peters said. "We had some errors in our earlier games, but today it was flawless."
On offense the Squirrels came away with eight hits on the game. Seven of the nine starters came away with a hit with Rowland leading the team with two.
With his team's offense stepping up with timely hitting and only walking away with three strikeouts Minner said he was pleased his kids approach at the plate.
"We swung the bats," he said. "Even the outs we made we were hitting snot rockets down to third and (Poplar Bluff's) coming up with unbelievable plays.
"It was just a team effort and now we look to get on a roll and expect good things."
In a second contest later that evening Charleston once again came away with the win over Poplar Bluff.
After trailing 6-4 in the fifth inning the Squirrels came from behind to beat the Express 12-7.
Charleston next match-up comes Wednesday when they visit Jackson where they will play its Legion squad at 6 p.m.
Charleston 112 000 0 - 4
Poplar Bluff 100 000 0 - 1
WP -- Brandon Peters. LP -- Sheldon Edmundson. Multiple hitters -- (C) Zach Rowland 2-4; (PB) Mitchell Dennis 2-3, Sheldon Edmundson 2-3, Jake Smith 2-3. 2B -- (C) Tyler Whybark; (PB) Dennis.