While many people escaped the cold weather during Spring Break by heading south, the UD baseball team traveled west to face the Southern Colorado Thunderwolves and the Air Force Academy Falcons, splitting six games during the week.
The Flyers were scheduled to face the Thunderwolves Mar. 11 to begin the Spring Break road trip, but freezing temperatures caused the game to be postponed.
Dayton then traveled to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force Mar. 13-14. The weather remained cold, but the Dayton bats were hot, as they swept both games of the series, 21-6 and 9-8 respectively.
In the first game, it didn't take long for the Flyers to flex offensive muscle. Senior outfielder Mark Schulte led the game off with a solo homer. Four batters later, junior catcher Mark Wahl knocked Air Force starting pitcher Johnny Koegel out of the game by belting a grand slam.
“He (Wahl) has been a pleasant surprise,” coach Tony Vittorio said. “We knew he was a good catcher, but we didn’t know about his hitting.”
The Flyers kept up the offensive pressure in the next innings, as Wahl hit two more home runs. In the second inning, he crushed a three-run shot to add to the Flyers' lead. He hit his third homer of the game in the fourth inning, this time a two-run home run. Wahl also added a RBI single to put the Flyers ahead 20-2 after five innings.
The final UD run came off the bat of junior outfielder Shawn Bolinger, whose sixth-inning lead off home run capped his afternoon. Bolinger finished with three RBIs.
Dayton pounded the Air Force pitching staff for 21 hits.
Junior left-handed starter Jake Hanson earned his first win of the season, pitching six innings and only allowing two runs off two hits. Junior relievers Carl King, Aaron Pahs and Sam Fisher each pitched an inning to ice the win.
The next day, the two teams returned to Falcon Field. Weather would again play a factor, as the game only lasted six innings with the Flyers ending up on top, 9-8.
The Falcons came out hot early in the cold temperatures, tagging Flyer junior starting pitcher Mike Rolih for five runs in the bottom of the first inning.
The Flyers answered in the third inning, matching the Falcons' first inning output. Schulte remained hot, hitting a RBI triple off Falcon starter Mike Tufte. Junior infielder Mike Kerins and Bolinger added RBI hits, while junior infielder Aaron Reesh capped off the inning with a two-out single, scoring Bolinger and senior catcher Brooks Vogel.
Momentum remained on the Flyers' side, as they scored runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Kerins drove in his second run of the game in the fourth, and senior infielder Nate Winkelfoos, who scored on a wild pitch in the fourth, knocked in a run in the fifth.
Dayton held a 9-6 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning. However, with light snow falling, Air Force pushed home their seventh run of the game.
The Falcons' rally continued as the snow started to fall harder. They scored another run on a single that advanced the tying run to third base.
Senior pitcher Kent Depue relieved Rolih after the single and put a stop to the Falcons' rally, getting Adam Howes to fly out to end the inning.
The umpires delayed the game after the inning because the field had become covered in snow. The game was called due to the poor weather conditions after a 10-minute wait.
The next day, Dayton returned to Pueblo to play Southern Colorado, and the weather again played a factor.
Winds gusting to 30 mph caused a rare wind delay before the teams’ Mar. 15 doubleheader. The delay did not help the Flyers any, as Thunderwolves pitcher Kevin Martin silenced the Flyers’ bats in the first game. Martin allowed only seven hits in a complete-game effort, which his team won 6-3.
Dayton scored the first two runs of the game in the second inning, but Southern Colorado responded with five of their own in the bottom half of the inning to take command of the game.
In the nightcap, Kerins, who played second base in the first game, pitched a complete game in the Flyers’ 4-2 win. Kerins allowed only two earned runs off four Thunderwolf hits.
The Flyers led the game 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, before the Thunderwolves pushed a run across to tie the game. However, a bases-loaded wild pitch scored Winkelfoos and an insurance run scored when Bolinger hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score the Flyers’ fourth run of the game.
The two teams faced off the next day, Friday, in another doubleheader. Dayton did not end the trip with momentum, losing both games 5-4 and 10-4.
In the first game, the Flyers dented the plate four times in the first inning off Thunderwolves starter Mike Deulen. It was all he allowed through the game, holding the Flyers hitless after the second inning and retiring the side in order as well.
Dayton did keep the lead for most of the game, before two runs scored for Southern Colorado in the final two innings to blow the lead.
“We’ve lost a few games so far by one run,” Vittorio said. “It’s something we need to work on.”
The second game went no better for the Flyers, as the Thunderwolves scored in all but one inning en route to a 10-4 win.
Winkelfoos, Schulte, and Bolinger led the UD attack. Schulte went 3-for-4 for the game, including an RBI single. Winkelfoos went 2-for-4, with two runs scored—he stole home in the third. Bolinger went 2-for-4 with one RBI.
The teams were going to play again Sunday, but again weather cancelled the game.
Overall, the Flyers went 3-3 on their Spring Break trip to Colorado, going 2-0 over the Falcons but 1-3 against the Division II Thunderwolves. This brought the Flyers’ overall record to 5-10.
By: Matt Hager