WINTHROP – Winthrop didn’t exactly hit the cover off the ball in Saturday morning’s MVC tilt with unbeaten Mountain Valley. But it didn’t need to, either.
A few well-placed, timely hits, a workmanlike effort by pitcher Forrest Dwyer, a lot of team speed and some long grass were enough for the Ramblers to hand the Falcons their first loss, 5-3.
If the teams were hitting for distance, the Falcons would have won by a mile. Just three of the Ramblers’ six hits made it out of the infield, while Mountain Valley hit numerous balls hard to the outfield. But the Falcons didn’t take advantage of their opportunities, offensively or defensively, and Winthrop made them pay.
“We’ve never beat these guys since I’ve been here and I’ve been coaching here, I don’t know, 10 years,” said Winthrop coach Marc Fortin. “They’re always tough. We’ve come close a couple of times, but to take them here today, with them undefeated, it’s got to be worth a ton of Heal points.”
“I hate to say it, but we kind of beat ourselves defensively,” said Mountain Valley coach Steve LaPointe. “But you know, a good team takes advantage of mistakes, and they took advantage of every mistake we made.”
Winthrop (7-2) was most opportunistic in its first ups against Falcon starter Chris Cayer. All the rain the last couple of weeks hasn’t allowed time for the field to be mowed, and the Ramblers made hay on the slow turf. Speedy Rusty Schmelzer beat out a bunt single to lead off the first, then stole second and moved to third on a ground out. With two out, Travis Frautten rolled a grounder through the thick grass and beat the throw to first to score Schmelzer. After an error and a walk, Dwyer blooped a two-run single over the third baseman to make it 3-0.
“That was nice because I’ve been 0-for-3 the last two games and to start it off got a nice positive spin going for me,” Dwyer said.
Mountain Valley (8-1) had several chances to put a negative spin on Dwyer’s day, but the Falcons stranded six runners through the first three innings and 10 for the game.
Another infield hit helped the Ramblers add a run in the third on David Ricker’s ground out. The Falcons finally broke through in the fourth on an RBI triple by Cayer, followed by a single by Marcus Palmer that cut the Winthrop lead in half. But Winthrop was able to add to its cushion again with an unearned run in the bottom of the frame.
Dwyer scattered nine hits and three walks while going the distance. He escaped a two on, two out jam in the fifth and pitched around an error in the sixth, thanks in part to his outfielders tracking down some well-hit fly balls on a very windy day.
“The defense was just about perfect today,” Dwyer said. “Sometimes their hitters were a little off-balance and I tried to throw my fastball side to side, maybe move them off the plate a little bit. I’m not really overpowering, so that’s what I have to focus on.”
Andy Shorey’s RBI single in the seventh made it 5-3 and brought the tying run to the plate, but Dwyer induced Eric Valkennen to hit into a 6-4-3 double play on his first pitch to end the game.
“He had 114 pitches, a little high on the pitch count,” Fortin said of Dwyer. “He did the job. The defense did it behind him, too.”
“He moved the ball around. When you face a guy like that, you’ve got to be willing to take the ball to right and we were kind of taking our heads off sometimes,” LaPointe said. “We weren’t going to be undefeated forever. We knew someone would get us at some point.”