Seven batters reached base in the first inning Friday night at Liberty Park Stadium, and the St. Pius X Warriors turned that into six runs in a 14-6 win over the Smith-Cotton Tigers.
The Warriors (8-10, 4-3 West Central Conference) took advantage of a pair of errors and a walk to produce four hits, including a two-run double by David Kepus that gave them a 4-0 lead in the first game of a conference doubleheader.
L.J. Lipari, the eighth batter to come to the plate in the first against Dom Zerilli, made it 6-0 with a two-run single to left.
Meanwhile, pitcher Jacob Steele held the Tigers to one hit over the first two innings, and the Tigers struck out five times during that stretch and 12 times overall.
St. Pius X added two more unearned runs in the third. Kepus, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and three runs scored, was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and Steele reached base on an error with one out. Jake Hamerle drove them home with a single down the left-field line.
The Tigers began to put some good at-bats together in the third inning, and they began to claw back.
“Our bats are coming to life,” S-C coach Jeff Mays said. “We gave up eight unearned runs in the first three innings. That just killed us.”
Dakota Brown, who went 2 for 3 with two runs scored, led off the third with a single to right field, and Spencer Ruckman reached base on an error. Tyler Slawson had a run-scoring groundout to second, and Charles Chadwick hit a two-run homer to left-center field to slice the Warriors’ lead to 8-4.
The Tigers (5-18, 3-5) ended Steele’s day on the mound in the fourth. Steele allowed a leadoff walk and an infield single before giving way to Lipari.
Steele gave up six runs — four earned — on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in three innings.
Ruckman greeted reliever Lipari with a run-scoring single. Slawson followed with an infield single, and Chadwick hit a sacrifice fly with out for this third RBI of the game, and the Warriors’ lead dwindled to 8-6.
S-C came no closer because the Warriors scored three runs in the fifth against relievers Ian Hartt and Taylor Schubert. Hart allowed the first two batters to reach on walks.
Grant Gavin, who went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and three runs scored, greeted Schubert with a two-run single, and the next batter, Logan Lopicka, singled home a run. Lopicka finished 3 for 5 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.
“We battled back and couldn’t shut it down on the mound (late),” Mays said. “They hit the ball pretty well. They’ve got a pretty good hitting ballclub.”
Meanwhile, Lipari settled in, retiring nine straight over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. He struck out the side in a perfect fifth.
The Warriors padded its lead with three runs in the seventh, but S-C didn’t go down easy, scoring two runs in the seventh. Dalton Christian singled home a run, and Ian Dotson hit a sacrifice fly to cap the scoring.
Lipari, the winning pitcher, yielded two runs on three hits with five strikeouts, one walk and one hit batsman in four innings.
Zerilli was charged with the loss, allowing eight runs — none earned — on seven hits with three strikeouts, one walk and one hit batsman in three innings.
Besides Brown, Luke Archibeque had two hits, going 2 for 3 with two runs scored. He also made a diving catch of a line drive while parallel to the ground at shortstop in the sixth inning.
“We’re getting good effort,” Mays said. “Our effort’s been good the last couple weeks. We’ll just keep fighting and see what happens.”