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JUCO baseball: Warrior bats come alive under the lights

Mar. 18—CENTERVILLE — Give them an inch. They'll take it a mile.

So far this season, the Indian Hills baseball team has proven they can do a lot with a little. The Warriors took advantage of any opening provided by visiting St. Cloud State this past weekend during an impromptu three-game series with the Cyclones, ultimately putting up 35 runs over 21 innings including a primetime explosion of offense under the lights at Pat Daugherty Field.

The Warriors turned a scoreless dual in game one with St. Cloud State into a seven-inning rout on Friday night, scoring 13 runs in the bottom of the sixth to clinch an 18-1 win securing the fifth straight home victory of the season. Indian Hills needed to rally twice late in the second game of the series, erasing 5-4 and 7-5 deficits to earn an 8-7 win in an eight-inning thriller in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader with the Cyclones before falling for the first time in seven home games in the nightcap as St. Cloud State salvaged a 16-9 win to close out a series that came together after weather forced Friday's action to be pushed back to allow IHCC's home diamond to dry leading to Garden City opting out of traveling to Iowa.

"It was good baseball. St. Cloud has some really good arms," Indian Hills head baseball coach Matthew Torrez said. "I doubt we saw their best bullpen guys (on Friday). We always talk about the bullpen having to be solid for us to be a quality baseball team. When you're fighting and you're trying to get the starters out, it's something you have to be good at."

Indian Hills was for most of the series with the Cyclones, scoring 25 of their 35 runs in the fifth inning or later of all three games. It was the fourth inning of Friday's opener where the Warriors first broke through in a game that appeared to be lining up to be a classic pitchers' duel between Cayden Hansen and Cole Huebner.

Making his fourth start on the mound for the Warriors this season, Huebner pitched five scoreless innings retiring the first eight batters of the game. After giving up a two-out double to Jake Ince in the third inning, Huebner responded by striking out the next three batters ultimately finishing with eight total strikeouts while allowing just two hits to the Cyclones.

"I was just trying to focus on my job and throw a lot of strikes," Huebner said. "Logan Myers, behind the plate, did a great job. It was pretty easy to just pound the (strike) zone and let our defense do their job."

Hansen, meanwhile, got help from the Cyclone defense to match Huebner in keeping Friday's game scoreless heading into the fourth. Endi Jaquez was robbed of a lead-off hit on a liner to first base, Dylan Sayles was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the first and Fano Cruz was robbed by Ince on a ground ball up the middle to open the second inning.

"They made some really good plays early in the game," Torrez said. "You just have to move on from those and keep fighting."

Indian Hills kept putting the ball in play against the Cyclones, ultimately leading to miscues in the field that helped the Warriors finally break through on Friday. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, it appeared Hansen had forced Cruz into an inning-ending groundout to second that would send the game into the fifth still scoreless.

Instead, Ince bobbled the grounder before rushing a throw that got away from Cyclone first baseman Terrance Moody allowing Cruz to both reach and move immediately into scoring position with two outs. After Myers was hit by a two-strike pitch to extend the inning, another fielding error on a ground ball hit by Zachari Pace allowed Cruz to score the first run of the game.

The errors would ultimately cost St. Cloud State three runs. With the inning being extended, Raul Torres connected on a two-run triple to bring home Myers and Pace giving IHCC a sudden 3-0 lead.

"Coach and I have been practicing in the morning, making some adjustments in the batting cages," Torres said after connected on three extra-base hits for IHCC in Friday's contest. "We're trying to keep it simple and keep swinging through the middle. If the other team makes an error, we need to punish teams for that. If you miss the ball, we're going to take advantage of that."

Indian Hills took advantage of two more Cyclone errors in the fifth, both of which led to Ciro Benavides crossing home plate before setting up Cruz for a two-out RBI double that put the Warriors up 5-0. Both Hansen and Huebner would exit the game after the fifth inning with neither starting pitcher giving up an earned run, but a scoreless inning of relief by Warrior left hander Lewie Winkleman would be followed by a barrage in the bottom of the sixth as Indian Hills would send 14 batters to the plate without recording an out as the Cyclones (7-5) went through four relief pitchers, allowing 13 runs on five hits, five walks and two hit batters as IHCC batted around twice to put Friday's contest out of reach.

"We're pretty good at taking advantage of mistakes," Torrez said. "We can run. We can put pressure on you. Things can get away in a hurry sometimes. Taking advantage of opportunities is the name of the game in athletics."

Indian Hills (15-4) returns home on Wednesday to host Kirkwood at 2 p.m.