RURAL STREATOR — It was a close call whether there were more degrees showing on the thermometer or combined letters in the competing schools' names Wednesday when Earlville-Leland-Paw Paw baseball visited Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell for both ballclubs' 2018 season openers.
Despite the chilly temps and an increasing number of errors as innings piled up and fingertips numbed, though, the Red Raiders and Warriors played an entertaining nonconference game with three crooked-number innings on both sides, and after the dust had cleared it was host WFC holding off visiting E-L-PP 15-13 here at the Windy Confines of Woodland School.
"First game of the year for us and them too, and we hit the ball pretty well," said Warriors skipper Bubs Hoffman. "Late we made a few errors on defense that let them back in the game, but (E-L-PP) has some kids who can play over there. They're a solid team, and you can't give solid teams those (additional-out) opportunities, because they're going to take advantage of it.
"But we got through today. Our motto is going to be one game at a time, and we got through today."
Early on it seemed as if WFC would more than "get through." A Kyle Voytko RBI double in the first followed by a four-run home half of the second (highlighted by a Chandler Hillebrenner RBI single and a Mason Ewing two-run bloop double) and a five-run third (RBI grounders from Hillebrenner and Jake Albertson, another two-RBI hit off the bat of Ewing) had the home team up 10-1 through three and chased E-L-PP starting and ultimately losing pitcher Keegan Johnson (2 1/3 IP, 7 ER, 2 K).
A four-run top of the fifth (Grant Campbell RBI double, Davis Sweeney two-run single) and three-run sixth (Tim McNally two-run single) allowed the Raiders to draw back as close as 10-8. WFC retorted quickly and definitely, though, putting up five unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth (Hillebrenner three-run double) to reassert control and hold off E-L-PP's five-run seventh (Pickert three-run triple) without the potential tying run coming to the plate.
"Our hitting has been a big thing we've been stressing ... smooth swing, head in, and we did that," Raiders coach Bobby Stevens said. "We started being selective and we started being aggressive, and I think that's what helped us hit the way we did today.
"Keegan pitched well for his first time out, we just have to zone in on that strike zone ... and then Porter (Wesson, with no earned runs over 3 1/3 innings) came in and did a phenomenal job, and Justin came in and threw strikes, did what he needed to do. I think overall or pitching was great, fielding was spotty here and there, but for the most part after being outside for one week, I can't complain."
Johnson helped his own cause by scoring four runs, Pickert finished with a single, a triple and three RBIs, and E-L-PP also received two hits apiece from Campbell and Sweeney, who drove in two.
For the Warriors, Hillebrenner (4 IP, 1 ER, 8 K) was the winning pitcher before being relieved by Tyler Jenkins and Collin Hjerpe. Hillebrenner also clubbed in a game-best five RBIs on two hits, with Ewing driving home four on his two safeties. Jenkins also had two hits and scored four runs, Voytko and Hjerpe each scored three runs, Cody Dodge had a game-high three hits — all singles — in the Warriors' win.
"Chandler threw really well for the first time out," Hoffman said. "I wish it would have been the middle of April instead of the middle of March, because he might have been able to close that game out for us ... and we hit all up and down the lineup.
"Everybody participated. You score 15 runs, everybody's chugging along."
At rural Streator
Woodland/Flanagan-Cornell 15, Earlville-Leland-Paw Paw 13
E-L-PP (13) — Johnson p/2b/rf 2-4-1-0, Campbell ss 4-1-2-1, B. Sweeney 3-2-1-1, Pickert cf 5-1-2-3, T. McNally 5-0-1-2, Wesson 4-1-0-1, D. Sweeney 2-1-2-2, Imel 3-0-0-0, Eager rf/cr 2-1-0-0, Shannon cr/ph/3b/p 2-2-1-0. Totals 32-13-10-10.
WFC (15) — Jenkins 3-4-2-0, Hjerpe 3-3-1-0, Voytko 1b 3-3-1-2, Hillebrenner p/3b 5-1-2-5, Albertson dh 4-0-1-2, Ewing cf 3-0-2-4, Sibert c 5-0-1-0, Dodge 3b/2b 4-1-3-0, Redd lf 3-0-0-0, Simpson rf 0-0-0-0, Wargo cr 0-2-0-0, Derossett cr/2b 0-1-0-0. Totals 33-15-13-13.
E-L-PP (0-1) 001 043 5 — 13 10 3
WFC (1-0) 145 005 x — 15 13 3
LOB - E-L-PP 7; WFC 10. 2B - Campbell 2, Johnson, Voytko, Ewing, Hillebrenner. 3B - Pickert. SAC - Redd. SB - Pickert 2, Eager, D. Sweeney, Shannon. CS - none. HBP - D. Sweeney (by Hillebrenner), B. Sweeney (by Jenkins).
E-L-PP ip r er h bb k
Johnson (L, 0-1) 2.1 9 7 7 7 2
Wesson 3.1 6 0 6 1 3
Shannon 0.1 0 0 0 1 1
Hillebrenner (W, 1-0) 4.0 1 1 3 2 8
Jenkins 1+ 6 4 4 2 1
Hjerpe 2.0 6 0 3 2 1