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Benton slugs way past Indians in opener

  • Benton's Peyton Bayless crosses home plate on a wild pitch in Monday's season opener at Du Quoin High School.

    Benton's Peyton Bayless crosses home plate on a wild pitch in Monday's season opener at Du Quoin High School.
    DOUG DANIELS | For the Benton News

BY justin Walker
Contributing Writer
updated: 3/13/2019 12:36 PM

Daylight saving time still didn't give Du Quoin and Benton enough sunny minutes to play a full seven innings in their baseball openers Monday.

Benton scored two runs in the top of the first, had eight straight batters touch home in the fourth and eventually won 14-6 in six innings when the game was ruled over due to darkness.

Although a lot happened afterward, the game's opening few minutes determined a lot.

Benton's Dillon Poe hit a one-out single against his pitching counterpart, Owen Bradley, and then Tyler Butler also singled. Kanon Cantrell drew a walk and that brought up Kael Pearce, the Rangers' designated hitter.

Pearce lined a two-run single up the middle and although the Rangers stranded two runners in the frame, those early runs seemed enormous.

Especially after Du Quoin's Brian Winters singled to lead off the bottom half and worked his way to third base but was left there to stop any potential momentum swing as Poe struck out Alex Zimmerman and Bradley and got Slade West to ground out.

"The first inning was really big," said Benton coach Brett Blondi. "We had some big at-bats there early. And then they get a runner on third base with two outs and Dillon really beared down and got a guy.

"The first inning really set a good tone."

Poe ended up going four innings and gave up one unearned run. He allowed two hits, walked two, plunked two and struck out three.

In the fourth, the Rangers batted around and scored eight runs. Pearce drove in two more runs, while Cantrell, Butler, Poe and Jared Shaw also collected their first RBIs of the season and Blake Stewart ripped a two-run single to make it 10-0.

Benton added four in the fifth, including a sacrifice fly from Jon Tate to add his name to the list of RBI earners.

Jaron Picklesimer wasn't one of them but he reached base four times, drawing three walks and hitting a single in the eight-run fourth. Stewart, batting in the No. 9 hole, finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs, while Butler and Cantrell both had two hits.

"When you score 14 runs that's a positive thing," Blondi said. "I thought we ran the bases pretty well. Dillon Poe did an excellent job pitching. He was tremendous. Kanon was really solid behind the plate and we made some nice plays in the outfield.

"Overall, I'm just really happy."

Du Quoin showed its resolve by not getting shortgamed. The Indians plated four runs in the bottom of the fifth to keep that from happening.

"With a young team, your first game, we were a little nervous, a little lax defensively," said Du Quoin coach Kyle Geiger. "I thought we had great at-bats. We hit the ball hard, but we just couldn't find any holes. I told them nobody looked like they were off-balance and for the first game that's a positive for us.

"We had some good swings and just couldn't get anything going early."

A run in that scrutinized first inning would have helped.

"It's hard to play from behind," Geiger said. "This game is crazy. A couple of innings and you're right back in it, but I think we were a little nervous. For a lot of these guys, it was their first time at the varsity level. So we've got some work to do and situations to work on."

Du Quoin doesn't play again until traveling to Herrin for a doubleheader Saturday.

"We'll shake this off and we'll improve," Geiger said. "We have a long week to improve."