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Anticipated season begins with big win for PHS diamond squad

Prescott's Charlie Brookshaw slides into home plate successfully before Baldwin-Woodville pitcher Michigan Trunkel can react during the season opener for both teams at Firehall Field in Prescott. Owen Schommer (3) is standing off to the side for PHS.1 / 2
Prescott third baseman Jack Ryan picks up this grounder.2 / 2

PRESCOTT - A beautiful day for a baseball opener Thursday matched the mood the Prescott High School diamond squad has for the upcoming season.

Fourteen returning lettermen from last year’s 10-6 squad, (5-2 in the Middle Border Conference) which made it to the regional finals, is the reason for the Cardinals' sunny disposition. And there were no clouds on this opening day to change this mood as Prescott routed Baldwin-Woodville 14-1 in five innings at Firehall Field.

Catcher Austin Tulip is only graduated letter winners from last spring.

“We have a very experienced team,” PHS head coach Jeff Ryan said. “Some of our players have been on the varsity for the past two to three seasons. It’s made our preparation for this season easier compared to last year because we had a less experienced squad which had to spend a lot of time in gym because of the weather. That’s why we got off to such a slow start (PHS was 2-5 after its first seven games). But we got better and won six games in a row to get to the regional finals.  Now we want to keep our momentum ongoing.”

Prescott shrugged off a 1-0 deficit quickly in the bottom of the first. Junior catcher Justin Lynner’s two-RBI double put PHS ahead 3-1. He finished with three RBIs for the ballgame batting clean-up. No. 2 man in the line-up, junior shortstop Mike Brookshaw, had two hits and drove in a run and outfielder and No. 3 batter Alex Helmer had an RBI-single before leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the second (he was walking around shortly afterwards). Also driving in runs was senior infielder Marty Harris with a two-RBI double, senior outfielder Owen Schommer with a sacrifice RBI and junior infielder Mason Syverson with an RBI-single. Junior first baseman Charlie Brookshaw scored twice and drove in a run. Wild pitches and past balls also helped the Redbirds score runs.

Thursday’s outcome was a positive sign Prescott will have more power at the plate to go with an experienced, fundamentally sound defense in the field and a pitching staff which had a collective ERA of under 2.00 last season.

“We have a lot of experience and depth in our line-up which I believe will make our kids more aggressive at the plate,” Ryan said. “They face good pitching practice so that will help them improve. We also have a lot of left-handed batters in our line-up, more so than most high school pitchers would ever see in a ballgame, so that’s going to be a big advantage for us. We were very impressive in the batting cage while inside for the first couple of weeks of practice.”

Matt Holman was the winning pitcher. After a shaky start the senior, first team All-MBC hurler shut down the Blackhawks in innings two through four. In the third he pitched himself out of a two-on, no out jam with pair of strikeouts to end the ‘Hawks at bat then struck out the side in the fourth, part of a string seven straight strikeouts for B-W. Holman held the visitors to just three hits.

Senior Brady Schommer fanned two in the fifth to get the save.  Besides those two, junior Evan Bayer, Harris, junior Clay Seifert, Helmer and Syverson will all pitch for PHS.

“It’s exciting,” Ryan said. “We have seven kids who can get the ball over the plate and given the compressed nature of the schedule due to the unpredictable weather we have around here, it’s important to have serious depth when it comes to pitchers.”

Besides Holman, both Mike Brookshaw and Helmer made the all-conference first team while Seifert was chosen for the second team.

While it’s only one game, Prescott hopes the outcome will show the rest of the Middle Border Conference, especially defending league, regional and sectional champion Ellsworth, the Cardinals will be a factor in the title race as well.

“We know Ellsworth and New Richmond are the teams to beat and we know we can compete with them,” Ryan said. “The team that wins the league is the one which does the basics better than their opponents when they play each other: throw-catch-hit. That’s what we do well and why we’re be up there too.”

PHS will be back in action in Saturday’s St. Croix Falls Tournament and host Amery on Tuesday.