Hampshire made the most of its first chance to swap cabin fever for baseball fever.
Not only had the Whip-Purs not played a game prior to Wednesday's belated season opener at Sycamore due to eight cancellations, frozen field conditions had prevented them from even conducting an infield practice. The closest Hampshire has come to a full outdoor practice this spring was a bit of recent work in the outfield on a lower-level field.
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Otherwise it has been week after week of indoor practices within the school's field house, a fantastic facility but hardly a baseball player's field of dreams.
"It gets so monotonous inside," Hampshire catcher Tyler Crater said. "It's nice to finally get outside and play some baseball."
Though the Whips showed some understandable rust in the field with 3 errors, the other two phases of the game looked sharp in a 5-4 victory over the Spartans at Sycamore Park. Starting pitcher Mike Dumoulin and reliever Michael Merchut made big pitches to strand baserunners and the offense capitalized on Sycamore mistakes to score 2 runs in the top of the fifth inning and snap a 3-3 tie.
"We pitched well and we hit well," Hampshire coach John Sarna said. "We have a few things we have to work on defensively, but when you come out after not having been on a field yet and get a win over a good program, nothing but positives come out of this."
Dumoulin wasn't perfect, but he limited the damage when Sycamore (2-2) threatened. He stranded runners at second and third in the third inning by inducing a flyball to right field. Sycamore scored twice in the fourth inning to tie the game 3-3, but the right-handed senior left runners at the corners, courtesy of flyball to center field.
Dumoulin struck out 6 without a walk and retired the side in order twice. He limited the Spartans to 3 runs (1 earned) on 6 hits in 5 innings.
"I never thought this would happen," he said of finally pitching outside. "I felt pretty good. Things were working. It was nice to throw the pitches I needed to make and have the guys back me up."
Hampshire immediately regained the lead with 2 runs in the top of the fifth. Leadoff hitter RJ Consigny reached on an error and later scored on a passed ball. Crater later singled and scored thanks to 3 wild pitches from Sycamore starting pitcher Jordan Mitchell (0-1).
"We gave away all their runs," Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. "At least 3 of their runs scored on wild pitches."
Hampshire reliever Michael Merchut recorded a 2-inning save in his first varsity appearance. The junior allowed 1 run on 2 hits in the sixth inning, but he marooned the potential tying run at second base with a popout and a flyout. He then retired the side in order in the seventh, finishing the game with his first varsity strikeout.
Brandon Wescher had the lone RBI for Hampshire when he doubled home Consigny in the third inning to give his team a 3-1 lead. The Whip-Purs and Spartans each collected 7 hits.
Hampshire (1-0) opens Fox Valley Conference play today with the home opener against defending FVC Valley champion Crystal Lake South. Hampshire defeated CL South 6-2 last season.