CARTERVILLE — In their season opener, the Carterville Lions batted around in the fourth inning to score seven runs and held Benton to two hits to keep the Rangers winless, taking a 10-2 decision on a very cold Tuesday afternoon.
“For the first game of the year, in this type of weather, I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Carterville coach Bobby Jackson. “Up and down the lineup, we hit the ball.”
The loss was the second in two days for the Rangers, who opened the season with a 3-2 loss at Du Quoin.
“We’re bad,” said Benton coach Brett Blondi. “This is what bad teams do. We don’t play with a lot of pride and don’t play very hard. We don’t have a lot of heart and not a lot of guts. So they aren’t very many tough kids in the dugout. I’ve got some of them that have shown me different, but they haven’t shown me so far this season or today.”
Eight of the nine Carterville batters had a hit, with Cole Sizemore driving in three runs and Keaton Petska two.
“I was a little rusty in my first at-bat, striking out on a pitch in the dirt,” Sizemore said. “My second and third I was looking for a fastball to hit somewhere and in the fifth I got one a little on the outside. I noticed a little hole between center and right and I put it right there.”
Julian Harshbarger (1-0) tossed a one-hitter over five and two thirds innings while striking out five and issuing four walks.
“The first game of the season is always nerve-wracking, so we needed to play good, pitch good and hit good," Harshbarger said. “Really I just wanted to go out there and prove myself. I didn’t need to throw 90s and I just needed to throw strikes. My curveball wasn’t so much on point, but my slider broke from the knees to outside on the corners.”
The junior right-hander pitched around back-to-back walks in the first inning, leadoff walks in the fifth and sixth inning and a one-out error in the second.
Harshbarger gave up the Rangers' first run in the fourth inning, when Tyler Butler led off with a triple and scored one batter later on a groundout to second by Brett Bonenberger.
Harshbarger opened the sixth inning with a walk, but the runner was erased when Butler hit into a 6-4-3 double play. With two outs and nobody on base, Harshbarger’s opening outing was over because he had reached the maximum amount of pitches allowed.
Freshman Bryce Anderson moved from shortstop to the mound to finish what Harshbarger had started, and needed just two pitches to get the third out on a comebacker.
Anderson finished the game by striking out the first batter in the seventh before giving up a double to Hamilton Page. The right-hander then struck out the next batter before his replacement at shortstop bobbled a ground ball by pinch-hitter Ethan Krieger, allowing Page to score. Anderson then struck out Ian McMahon to put his the game into the books.
In his first varsity outing on the mound, Anderson faced six batters retiring four with three strikeouts and no walks on 18 pitches. At the plate Anderson went 1-for-2, reaching base three times on a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch, scoring two runs.
The Lions took a 1-0 lead in the second against Rangers’ starting pitcher Zach Avery. After Keaton Petska struck out, catcher Kanon Cantrell dropped the third strike and hit Petska in the helmet on his throw to first, allowing him to reach base.
One out later, Avery walked Harshbarger and gave up a double off the fence in center field by Luke Anderson to score the other Anderson.
After Benton (0-2) tied the game in the fourth, the Lions sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the frame, scoring seven runs on six hits against Avery, who was relieved by Butler after hitting three batters and allowing three runs in the frame.
Cam Hall greeted Butler with a single to load the bases with two outs. Cole Sizemore fell behind in the count 1-2, but worked the count full and then hit a line drive single to deep right-center, clearing the bases to up the lead to 7-1. He scored three pitches later on a ground ball single by Brock Tuttle.
The Lions added two more runs in the sixth inning on a two-out double by Petska after Krieger, who had replaced Butler to pitch the sixth, walked Bryce Anderson and Sizemore.