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By Anthony Jones
Most teams have months of preparation for their season openers.
Triad baseball had around 13 hours of planning.
“I got a phone call around 9:45 last night from Coach Funkhouser and he said he had some games if we wanted to play. We looked at Friday and Saturday and we knew that wouldn’t happen, so we jumped on the train,” Coach Bugger said about their Mar. 30 doubleheader that was planned the evening prior to avoid poor weather conditions.
Their first matchup of the day and season came at 11:00 a.m. against Oswego. The Panthers finished with a 17-15 mark last season and have finished their last seven seasons with a winning record.
After a shutout top of the first from Triad ace Austin Brown, junior Brady Coon delivered the team’s first hit of the year with a leadoff single. Wyatt Bugger later singled Coon home to finish the first with a 1-0 advantage.
Oswego knotted the contest at 1-1 in the second frame, but Coon would push the Knights ahead once again in the third inning. His second run of the game came from his own bat, with a solo shot to left field to pull ahead 2-1.
The home side slowly pulled away through the fourth and fifth innings as Brown contained the Wolves and the offense added two more tallies for a 4-1 lead. A five run rally for the Knights in the bottom of the sixth would expand their advantage to 9-1, which included RBI hits from Nic Funk and TJ Suter.
Owen Droy relieved Brown after his six innings, 13 strikeout outing to make the 9-1 hold final in the top of the seventh.
After a short turnaround, the Knights began their second leg of the doubleheader against Champaign Central. The Maroons’ last season was similar to the Knights’, finishing with more than 30 wins and ultimately losing to state runner-up Chatham Glenwood.
Brady Coon started for Triad in the matchup of top programs, racking up three strikeouts in the first frame. The Maroons pitching started off in similar fashion, striking out two and picking off a runner in the bottom of the first.
The game’s first offensive momentum came in the bottom of the first as Funk, Bugger and Donny Becker loaded the bases with no outs. McGrady Noyes and Wyatt Suter drew subsequent walks to move ahead 2-0.
Coon helped himself at the plate, smoking a two-run double to left field for a 4-0 score. An RBI groundout from TJ Suter and a bases-loaded walk from Bugger added two more runs to their effort.
Isaac Ackerman and Funk closed out the second inning with runs on passed balls to extend their advantage to 8-0. The Maroons quickly responded with a three-run top of the third to pull within 8-3.
Driving the first pitch of the bottom of the third over the left field fence, Noyes retaliated for the Knights to lead 9-3.
TJ Suter took to the mound for Triad in the fourth and the visitors cut their deficit down to 9-5, largely thanks to a triple. A two-run rally for the Knights quickly erased that progress.
The Maroons eyed home plate again in the sixth frame, with two runners on and only one out. Shortstop Wyatt Suter quelled their hopes with a highlight reel play at shortstop, leaping in the air for a line drive and diving to tag second base for an unassisted double play.
Suter later added the game-ending run off a Carter Vandever single in an explosive bottom of the sixth, sealing a 15-5 short game win.
“We’re running new guys out there and it’s good for people to get their feet wet. We didn’t play like we wanted to on defense, but we will. I’m bullish on the fact that we’re a very good defensive team, we’ve just got to get comfortable,” Coach Bugger spoke of his team’s first action of the season and 2-0 start.