As far as home openers go, this one could not have been much better for the Thunder Mountain baseball team.
The Falcons broke open a tight game in the fifth, putting up five runs in the bottom half of the inning to put Wasilla away 10-3 behind a complete-game pitching performance from Gus Swanton on Thursday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The freshman gave up just four hits while striking out seven, allowing one earned run in his second outing of the season.
Falcons co-manager Bill McCauley said he didn’t intend to have Swanton pitch a complete game but when a kid is rolling, sometimes you just have to give him the ball.
“It wasn’t our intention to let it go that way, but Gus made it happen and we rode it,” he said.
The Falcons were up 5-3 to start the fifth, but Thunder Mountain ripped off five straight hits and four runs before Wasilla pulled starter Bryce Borngraeber.
But his replacement on the hill, Tyler Hansen, had difficulty locating his pitches. He hit the first two batters he faced, Swanton and catcher Camden Thomas, to load the bases, but he allowed just one more run to cross the plate on a bases-loaded walk.
“That definitely took a little tension out of the game, I’ll say that,” TMHS co-manager Matt Greeley said. “But all of that started with our pitching. Gus did a very nice job of getting ahead and attacking hitters.
“We were never out in the field very long, and we wanted to take all day on offense.”
The Falcons batted around in that deciding inning, scoring five runs in the process, but McCauley said he’d like his guys to be even more patient at the plate.
“We could have had more patience,” he laughed. “But we’re teaching them to look for good pitches and to get back and wait on the off-speed stuff.
“They’re still not there, but they’re a little anxious.”
Second and third hitters Dylan Johnson and Ben Bullock were at the center of the offense, each reaching base three times. The two also accounted for five of the team’s runs.
Greeley said the most noticeable improvement from last year to now has come between his players’ ears.
“I think the biggest growth we’ve had is probably mentally,” he said. “Our approach to the game is a lot different. We’re much more aggressive on the baseball field.
“Instead of waiting on teams to give us stuff, we’re trying to go out there and take it,” he continued. “We’re not there yet, but we’re a much improved team from last year, top to bottom.”
The top five batters in the order each recorded at least one hit for the Falcons, while all but one starter reached base safely. Xavier Dunn led the way for TMHS with a hit and two RBIs.
“I think the guys have a lot more confidence in what they’re doing on the field,” Greeley said. “A big thing we’re preaching is to keep adding on runs, and to not let off the pedal.
“I think we took advantage of those opportunities today.”
The Falcons (2-3) hope to build on their two-game winning streak as they send Bullock to the mound at 6 p.m. today for the second of a three-game series with the Warriors at Adair-Kennedy.