WINTHROP — If Jimmy Theriault was nervous about facing old friends and former teammates from Winthrop, the St. Dom’s freshman wasn’t showing it.
Theriault instead showed poise and command on the mound while holding Winthrop in check until the Saints’ offense exploded and the Ramblers’ defense collapsed in the fifth inning of an 11-1 win Friday.
“I just found my rhythm in the strike zone, just tried to keep pounding it,” said Theriault, who issued just one walk in his five-inning stint. “I know a lot of the guys on the Winthrop team because I used to go to school here and it was fun to face them.”
Theriault got into some jams against the Ramblers (2-1), who got runners on base in each of the first four innings but ended up stranding five and had another runner double off of first on a line drive to third.
“My fastball was my best pitch by far today,” Theriault said. “The curve ball I’ve been working at. The change-up I only threw once but I threw it for a good strike and got an out.”
With the Saints up 2-1 in the third, Winthrop put runners at first and third with one out but couldn’t get anyone home with the heart of the lineup hitting. Theriault got Tyler Reeve to ground back to the mound. With men at second and third, he got Tyler Foster to pop out to second and end the threat.
“He’s a freshman that is tough to rattle,” Saints coach Bob Blackman said. “He’s even-keel. At the plate he’s the same way. He just kind of goes with what comes his way.”
“We had Jimmy on the ropes a little bit,’ Winthrop coach Marc Fortin said. “It looked like he was starting to get a little shaky. If we could have got that run and then maybe another one, it could have been a different ball game. But we didn’t make the plays.”
The Saints (4-2) squandered a few early opportunities themselves against Winthrop starter Jacob Ward but they finally pulled away in a nine-run fifth aided by six Rambler errors. Garrett Darnell had a three-run triple and Kurt Johnson, Zach Johnson and Joe Bryant added RBI singles as the Saints sent 13 men to the plate.
“We feel this year with the youth that we’ve got in there (three freshmen and two sophomores), we’ve got to make things happen,” Blackman said. “We’re not going to hit the home run, so we’ve got to make these guys make mistakes. On the reverse side, we want to make the plays in the field.”
Chris Bryant put the Saints up 2-0 with a two-run double in the first inning. The Ramblers got one back in the bottom of the inning on a Travis Luce RBI single, but in a harbinger of things to come, they lost an opportunity to build on it when the Saints alertly cut off the throw in from the outfield and cut down Easton Morang trying to go first-to-third on the hit.
It was a big week for the Saints against their biggest competition in the MVC South. They sandwiched 10-run wins over Lisbon and Winthrop around a one-run victory over Hall-Dale.
“Coach has been telling us all along we’ve got a target on our back,” Joe Bryant said. “So far, we’ve gotten everybody’s ace and we’ve handled it pretty well.”
The Ramblers, meanwhile, just started their season on Monday, and it was probably just as well. They lost three of their top players for the season due to a violation of team rules and then lost a fourth, Riley Cobb, for the season to a knee injury. Morang has also been battling an illness.
“We’ve got 13 kids in the program,” said Fortin, who has battled some health issues of his own. “That was a big blow losing Riley Cobb. Plus Easton’s been sick all week, so it’s like we just keep getting one hit right after another. We’ve got some kids out there that are totally inexperienced at the varsity level, totally inexperienced at any level. We’ll try and do the best we can.”