GENEVA – A sun-splashed spring afternoon turned chilly and short on light by the time the Geneva and Metea Valley baseball teams were through Thursday.
Geneva coach Matt Hahn estimated the temperature dropped a solid 10 degrees during the long, twist-filled game.
“At the start of the game, I’m like ‘It’s really nice out here,’ ” Hahn said. “By the sixth inning, ‘It’s really cold out here.’ ”
Like the weather conditions, what happened on the field was a double-edged sword for the victorious Vikings. A relentless offensive performance fueled the Vikings to a 16-10 win against the Mustangs in the Upstate Eight Conference crossover but Geneva likely lost standout third baseman Mitch Endriukaitis for most of the season with an apparent broken finger.
Geneva left fielder Matt Guenther belted a three-run home run as part of a five-run bottom of the sixth for the Vikings. Until then, Geneva’s productive day came in nickel-and-dime fashion. The left-handed Guenther’s blast to right was the Vikings’ lone extra base hit on the day.
“It was just a hit parade today,” Geneva first baseman Anthony Bragg said. “We just stringed some together. Got some bunts down, put runners in scoring position. It’s nice to get guys in that way.”
Bragg’s day was a prime example of the diverse fashion with which Geneva (4-3, 1-1 UEC River) pestered the Mustangs’ beleaguered pitching staff.
Bragg reached on a squeeze bunt that scored a run in Geneva’s five-run first inning, laid down a sacrifice bunt in the third, singled in the fourth and reached on an error in the fifth.
The Mustangs (3-3, 1-1 UEC Valley) used four pitchers who combined to walk seven and hit three batters.
“I think it was four out of the six innings we started out the inning with a walk [or hit batsman] – you’re not going to win many games that way,” Metea coach Craig Tomczak said.
Trailing 11-5 after five innings, Metea Valley scored four runs in the top of the sixth inning, chasing Vikings starting pitcher Tony Landi, to make a game of it.
But Geneva’s five-spot in the bottom half of the sixth, which featured a two-run single by center fielder Bobby Hess (3 for 4, walk, three RBIs) in addition to Guenther’s home run, put the Vikings back in command.
Freshman shortstop Nick Derr (2 for 4, walk, two RBIs) and senior Brock Chenier (2 for 4, hit by pitch) also had multiple hits for the Vikings.
Chenier shifted from right field to third base after Endriukaitis had to leave in the top of the fourth inning. Endriukaitis appeared to jam his hand on the helmet of a Metea baserunner while applying a tag to complete an unassisted double play.
Hahn said the preliminary report is a broken middle finger on his right, throwing hand, which he said would likely sideline Endriukaitis for 4 to 6 weeks. A three-year varsity player, Endriukaitis is the No. 2 hitter in the Vikings’ batting order.
Hahn said it will take more than Chenier to compensate for the loss.
“We’re expecting Brock to pitch, too, so it’s going to take a collective effort of guys,” Hahn said. “It might be you today and somebody else tomorrow. I might have to get a little creative with how we handle that. It might be trial by error at first, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Junior Max Novak relieved Landi (2-0), pitching the final 12/3 innings to help stem the Mustangs’ momentum.
The Vikings projected to be led by a talented pitching staff this season but that hasn’t necessarily been the case early on. One of the team’s top pitchers, senior Jordan Touro, is expected to make his first start today at Lake Park after suffering a dislocated finger while pinch-running in the team’s opener.
“I thought pitching and defense were going to be the hallmarks of our team this year and we’re putting up double-digit runs in several games now,” Hahn said. “Three of our seven games, we’ve put up double-digit runs. I don’t have a read yet.”