By RON PRESTON
The Abilene Cowboys boys’ baseball team opened its season with a twin bill sweep of Smoky Valley Thursday afternoon at Ted Power Field.
First-year Cowboy head Coach Travis Bartley lead his team to 10-9 and 22-13 victories over the Vikings.
“Awesome to start the season off with a sweep. The team could have easily given in, in both games as we were down early in both, but they kept fighting and competing till the last pitch,” Bartley said following their first games of the season.
Sophomore Hunter Combes took the mound for the Cowboys in game one.
“For the first night out, I was pleased with the way he threw,” coach Bartley said, “He kept us in the ball game the four innings he threw.”
Combes allowed five runs on seven hits, struck out six and walked three in his four innings of work.
“I expect Hunter to be one of our top pitchers as the season goes along.”
Combes was relieved by senior Matt McClahahan in the fifth.
He pitched an inning and a third giving up four runs on two hits, striking out one and walking four.
Tanner Hoekman came in as the third Cowboy pitcher with runners on base and shut out the Vikings in his one and two-thirds innings of relief to pick up his first victory for the Cowboys.
Hoekman didn’t allow a run or a hit, struck out one and walked two during his time on the bump.
“Tanner came in with runners on and a little shaky in the sixth and found a way to get out of the jam and closed it out in the seventh for us for the win,” Bartley said.
Offensively for the Cowboys in the first game, senior catcher Nolan Berry and left fielder Colton Mills led Abilene with two hits each and Hoekman and Mills drove in two runs apiece.
“We started a little slow at the plate but the guys stayed patient. We ended the game only striking out twice and walked 12 times and scored 10 runs on eight hits,” Bartley said.
Junior Chris Cease started on the mound for the Cowboys in game two.
“Chris threw four innings, Smoky Valley got on him early but he settled in during the third and fourth innings, He was able to keep us in striking distance,” Bartley said.
Smoky Valley scored eight runs on seven hits off Cease in his four innings of work. He struck out one and walked five. Junior Chad Beetch pitched the last three innings for Abilene in relief of Cease to get the win for the Cowboys.
“He had a little trouble finding the zone early, but I was happy for the way he stayed with it and finished the game for us,” commented coach Bartley.
Offensively for the Cowboys, Berry, playing first base in the night cap, was five – for - six with three runs scored and center fielder Grant Prichard and left fielder Mills had three hits each.
Prichard had five runs batted in and Mills had four to lead the Cowboy hitting attack.
The Cowboys pounded out 16 hits with 13 walks and five strike outs in game two of the double header.
“Overall, I was very happy with our offense. We were patient when we needed to be and aggressive when we got good pitches to hit,” said coach Bartley.
“We stole eight bags on the night and got caught stealing only once,” he added.
“Defensively we were ok on the night but a little shaky at times. We were shaky early on in game one but I thought we played better as the game went along,” he said.
“In game two, we got sloppy with some throws and missed played some balls. We have to take care of the ball to help our pitchers out,” added coach Bartley.
“Pitchers struggled most of the night throwing strikes, there is no doubt we have to get better off the bump, I am happy the way they worked through it though,” he said.
“I told the guys after the game that I was happy the way they played and proud of them for staying focused and in the game from pitch one,” said coach Bartley.
“Also I said to never be satisfied. We can always get better every day we get out on the diamond,” concluded coach Bartley.
The Cowboys take the diamond Tuesday hosting Chapman at 4:30 p.m.
SVH. (0-1) 2 0 1 2 2 2 0 – 9 9 2
AHS (1-0) 0 0 5 3 0 2 x – 10 8 4
WP: Hoekman (1-0)
SVH (0-2) 5 0 2 1 3 2 0 – 13 9 7
AHS (2-0) 0 2 2 9 2 7 x – 22 16 6
WP: Beetch (1-0)