WARSAW — Ahead of his team’s season-opener with South Bend St. Joseph Tuesday, Warsaw baseball coach Andy Manes wasn’t telling his players they were about to face the No. 4 team in the Class 3A preseason polls, nor a Division I prospect in starter Joe Rotkis.
And apart from a pitch the Tigers would like to have back in the third, Manes was pretty happy with what he saw in a 7-3 loss at home.
“We didn’t tell them any of that before the game. A couple of them knew that, but we tried to keep that on the down-low,” said Manes of St. Joe’s bona fides with a laugh.
“I scheduled that game kind of on purpose because I wanted to come out against a quality opponent and see where we stood. I told the guys after the game, we said ‘Hey, that’s a good team over there.’ For the most part, I think we did just fine.”
The home team jumped on the Indians early.
Drake Graham struck out the side in the top of the first, and Warsaw got on top with an infield error on a Noah Burgh grounder followed by a double over St. Joe left fielder Ian O’Connell’s head in the bottom half of the inning. A walk and two hit batsmen left Graham in trouble in the second, but he and the Warsaw defense wiggled off the hook nicely, as catcher Liam Patton gunned down Rotkis trying to steal second, Graham fanned Noah Hickey, and O’Connell grounded out to second.
The Tigers still led by a slim 1-0 margin headed into the third, but two straight singles by Patrick Farrisee and Nick Dolniak and a Brady Gumpf walk chased Graham. Ian Glogovsky walked in a run in his first batter faced taking over for Graham, and St. Joe number five hitter Mitchell Coleman got all of a 1-1 fastball, lifting it over the right field fence for a grand slam that pushed the Indians out to a 5-1 advantage, all the runs they would ever need.
“The grand slam was just a wrong pitch at the wrong time. The guy did his job. He did what he was supposed to do. And that’s what I told the guys — that’s really the difference in the game,” said Manes.
“What we told the guys is there’s a couple pitches that kind of swung the game. A couple in the last inning that we didn’t really do a good job on, but, yeah, that grand slam killed us.”
“He definitely got ahold of it, and he can do that for us,” said St. Joe coach John Gumpf of Coleman’s game-changer. He’s a gap-to-gap hitter, and he obviously got a good fastball right there and turned on it. Didn’t see many after that, did he?”
The Tigers whittled into St. Joe’s four-run lead with a solo shot by Patton against A.J. Klimek in the sixth but never got any closer. The Indians tacked on a pair of runs against Warsaw closer Avery Remocaldo in the top of the seventh to stretch their lead back to 7-2, but the Tigers continued to battled with a two-out single from Josh Ehrlinger and a double to left by Burgh to bring the score to its final margin.
Which was a heartening sign for Manes.
“We preach to these guys we’re going to play to the very end. If they’re going to beat us, they’re going to have to fight for the game and beat us,” said the first-year Tigers head coach. “That’s kind of what we did. We showed some good fight at the end, didn’t give up. It would have been easy to do. Seven-two is not insurmountable, but going up against a good team it’s not looking good. But we fought to the bitter end.”
Glogovsky took the tough loss relieving Graham with the bases loaded in the third, surrendering just one hit and two walks for five runs while striking out two in 3 2/3 innings of work. Morehead State commit Rotkis got the win, giving up only one hit and no earned runs with no walks and one strikeout lasting three innings for St. Joe.
“That was our goal — let’s work on throwing strikes, getting our pitches in. I’ll tell you, they tattooed a couple of them, but he settled down then in the second and the third inning and did a great job for us,” said Gumpf.
Warsaw was led at the plate by Patton, who went 2-for-3 with a home run, while Erhlinger also went 2-do-3 with a run scored batting in the nine hole for the Tigers.
Warsaw (0-1) will play Indian Creek at Westfield Thursday at 6 p.m.
“Obviously you want the win, but going up against a good team, I told them I was pleasantly surprised at how well we came out. In the last two weeks we’ve had a couple practices that haven’t been great. We’ve had to get on the guys somewhat often, but they came out tonight and they played hard. That’s all I can ask them to do,” said Manes.