Wildcats seize momentum in win over Warrenton

By John Rohlf, Sports Editor
Posted 4/5/23

Wright City pitcher Jake Mitts pitched out of a sixth inning jam to help Wright City earn a win over county foe Warrenton last weekend. 

Facing Warrenton’s top hitter Kannon Hibbs, …

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Wildcats seize momentum in win over Warrenton


Wright City pitcher Jake Mitts pitched out of a sixth inning jam to help Wright City earn a win over county foe Warrenton last weekend. 

Facing Warrenton’s top hitter Kannon Hibbs, Mitts forced Hibbs to ground into a force out with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning of Wright City’s 11-3 win over the Warriors. Mitts recorded the out with Wright City clinging to a 5-3 lead. With the count evened up at 1-1, Mitts went to his splitter to induce the fielder’s choice groundout. 

“The previous at bats, I was throwing a splitter and they weren’t hitting it,” Mitts said. “So I figured why not go back to old reliable. So I threw the splitter and yet again, they swung over it and it got us out of the inning.” 

Warrenton head coach Eric Burle liked the Warriors’ offensive approach in the middle innings. Despite not scoring after the third inning, the Warriors put a runner in scoring position in the fourth and fifth innings. They loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning and had their best hitter at the plate. 

“You can think of the one inning where you have the bases loaded and you have one of the area’s best hitters up,” Burle said. “He smoked a one-hopper and their shortstop made a nice play.”

Wright City rode the momentum of escaping the sixth inning with the lead and added six runs in the top half of the seventh inning to claim an 11-3 lead. The Wildcats scored six runs in the inning despite the ball not leaving the infield. They hit four infield singles, drew one walk, were hit by a pitch and reached on one error. They also stole multiple bases in the inning. 

“The boys buy into it,” Raterman said. “It’s really demoralizing when you create the havoc and chaos like that. We have team speed. And when we put the ball in play and we bunt the way we bunt, crazy things happen.”

Wright City and Warrenton traded blows early in the game before the scoring settled down in the middle innings. Wright City senior Nick Moore’s RBI single in the first inning scored Hayden Waters to give Wright City an early lead. The Warriors responded with a pair of runs in the second inning. Warrenton scored runs on Keegan Mellegaard’s RBI groundout and Austin Haas’ RBI single. 

The lead was short lived, as the Wildcats responded with three runs in the third inning. Mitts, Moore and Trey Brakensiek each knocked in one run in the inning. Warrenton responded with one run in the bottom half of the third inning to trim the Wright City lead to 4-3. The Wildcats added a run in the fifth inning to retake the two-run lead. 

Raterman thinks the Wildcats’ ability to keep or regain momentum throughout the game was a key factor in the Wildcats’ first win of the season. 

“We always talk about chipping away at the buffalo and if a team is going to throw a jab, we have to come back and throw a haymaker,” Raterman said. “And that’s what we do. Finally, it started to click. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s Warrenton and a little crosstown showdown rivalry. The guys just got up to play.”

For the second consecutive season, Wright City got their first win of the season in their sixth game. They also started last season 0-5 but finished with a winning record. Both Mitts and Raterman stressed the importance of getting their first win. 

“Definitely, especially against Warrenton, that’s big,” Mitts said. “But it always helps to get the first win. Get that under our belt and that means we can improve and always get better. But that’s very important to get the first win.”

Brakensiek pitched five solid innings for Wright City to earn his first win of the season. He gave up three runs and struck out four Warrenton batters in the win. With Hayden Waters nursing an injury and strictly serving as a designated hitter, Brakensiek is serving in the ace role for the time being.

“He’s not going to blow anything by you. He’s not going to have the 12 strikeout game,” Raterman said. “He pitches to contact and lets the defense work and we did that today. Trey was Trey but maybe even a little better version because we knew that we had to go out there and compete.”

Warrenton utilized three pitchers without varsity pitching experience heading into the season. Mason Thompson started the game for the Warriors and pitched 3 2/3 innings. He surrendered four earned runs. Hibbs pitched 2 1/3 innings for Warrenton. All five runs he surrendered were unearned. He recorded four strikeouts. Bryce Philliips pitched an inning for Warrenton. 

“We treat these doubleheader games just to see some different guys and a chance to play,” Burle said. “They’re not conference games. Just a chance to get some at bats and stretch some of our pitchers out.”

Both Warrenton and Wright City lost games to Ft. Zumwalt East last weekend. Wright City fell to Ft. Zumwalt East 13-3. Warrenton lost to the Lions 7-2 and held a lead for the opening two innings. 

Despite suffering losses to Wright City and Warrenton over the weekend, Burle was encouraged by his team’s efforts in the two games. He stressed they put themselves in scoring position multiple times but were not able to come up with the key hit to score in the middle innings of their loss to Wright City. He thought they struck the ball well overall at the plate. 

“They like to play small ball. There were a few plays we left out there and kind of put ourselves down a little bit,” Burle said. “But you still felt pretty good because you’re getting pretty good at bats.” 

Burle was especially encouraged by Warrenton’s performance against Ft. Zumwalt East. After falling to county foe Wright City, Warrenton took an early 1-0 lead and were leading or trailed by no more than three runs through the first five innings.  

Warrenton currently holds a 3-7 record but is 2-1 in conference play. Prior to Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to Winfield, Warrenton earned a pair of wins over Orchard Farm last week. 

“I thought we pitched well in the first game for the most part,” Burle said. “And the second game, Kannon and Ben combined for only giving up one run and struck out 16 batters. It was a good start for us. I’m happy with that. We’ve just got to learn from today and move on.”