While the familiar ping of aluminum bats has been replaced by the crack of wood bats for the annual Scottsbluff Screenprinting Tournament this weekend at Cleveland Field, it certainly didn’t slow down the recent surge by the WESTCO Zephyrs senior legion baseball team.
The Zephyrs opened the three-day tournament with a pair of wins on Friday evening to run their winning streak to five in a row and improve to 24-15 overall on the season.
After topping the Rapid City Post 320 Shooters by a score of 8-3, WESTCO blanked Sidney 8-0 in a weather-shortened game to wrap up the first day of action.
The tournament will continue on Saturday at 9 a.m. Five games are on Saturday’s schedule. Already with a 2-0 record in the tournament, the Zephyrs won their pool and will either play in Saturday’s final game at 7 p.m. or Sunday’s first game at 9 a.m. depending on Saturday’s results.
With wood bat games typically being decided by strong pitching and sound defensive play, the Zephyrs received plenty of both on Friday. In the first contest, Harold Baez struck out 10 in a complete-game performance on the mound. Baez improved to 6-2 on the season with the victory.
It marked the third time he’s fanned 10 or more hitters in a start. His season high of 14 came in a win against Lexington back on June 9. Baez lowered his earned run average to 1.45 and also pulled into a tie with fellow hurler Paul Panduro for the most strikeouts this season with 67.
WESTCO put up four runs in the bottom of the third inning to go in front for good. The Zephyrs tacked on three more runs in the fifth to go up 7-1 before plating another insurance run in the sixth.
WESTCO totaled 13 hits. Panduro led the way by going 3-for-3 with a double. Baez helped his cause at the plate by finishing with two hits, two runs batted in and two runs scored. Jack Jones and Tate Carson also finished with a pair of hits each. Jones scored two runs and Jerald Ybarra was credited for two runs batted in.
Carson followed Baez to the mound in the Zephyrs’ win over Sidney and put together another impressive outing. He allowed just one hit and struck out six in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
“Harold and Tate really pitched well,” WESTCO head coach Jeremiah Luber said. “We played pretty solid defensively for most of the games except for about one inning, so that was good to see.”
WESTCO scored four times in the first to jump in front of Sidney early. The Zephyrs then added four more runs in the third to make it 8-0.
Jace Heimerman led the offensive attack with two hits. Panduro tripled and Creighton Dike finished with a double. Both also drove in a pair of runs. Panduro scored twice. Also finishing with a hit for WESTCO were KJ Hartline, Jerrett Richter and Porter Robbins.
Grant Campbell collected Sidney’s lone hit of the contest.
Luber thought the first day of the tournament went relatively smooth overall for his team.
“We feel really confident about our guys being able to throw strikes and being able to get people out defensively,” he said. “We kind of struggled a little bit today moving runners when we had opportunities to score more, so we have to continue to get better at that.”
The chance to swing the wood bats this weekend has generated plenty of excitement.
“It’s a blast for everyone,” Luber said. “The pro guys do it and the Pioneers use them. It’s a fun deal for them to have a wood bat tournament.”
In Friday’s other tournament game, the Casper Crush earned a 4-2 win over the Buckley Bombers.
Saturday’s action will start with Sidney facing the Rapid City Shooters at 9 a.m. Fort Morgan, Colorado, will take on Casper at 11:30 a.m. and Buckley will face Fort Morgan at 2 p.m.
Rapid City 000 102 0 — 3 5 3
Zephyrs 004 031 x — 8 13 3
WP — Harold Baez. LP — Peyton Ness.
2B — Zephyrs (Paul Panduro). Rapid City (Gage Darrow).
Sidney (11-19-2) 000 0 — 0 1 2
Zephyrs (24-15) 404 x — 8 7 0
WP — Tate Carson. LP — Jackson Witt.
3B — Zephyrs (Paul Panduro). 2B — Zephyrs (Creighton Dike).