By PAUL HINES email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON – Trevor Flota and Landon Thomas gave the Rams baseball team just about everything they wanted in Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of Mattoon.
“We needed two senior bulldogs to get out there and stop (the losing) for us,” Mt. Vernon coach Tim Holloway said. “I can’t say enough about Trevor Flota and Landon Thomas and Thomas Weber as well coming in shutting the door.”
Flota set the tone for the day with five strong innings of one-hit baseball in the opening game as Mt. Vernon won 2-0. Thomas followed with a complete game and helped the Rams claim a 2-1 victory. The Rams entered the games after a pair of defeats to Waterloo and Triad.
“It was huge to get back in the win column again and especially stay above .500,” Thomas said. “We didn’t want to get below.”
Despite Flota’s success on the mound in the open, the Rams offense struggled against the Green Wave in the initial innings. Mt. Vernon’s best early chance came in the first inning. Matthew Williams coaxed a walk andmoved to second on a throwing error. Thomas knocked a single for left field, and Williams tried to score but was thrown out at home on a close play.
Williams reached again in the third but was picked off first base. Collin Young was hit by a pitch in the fourth, but again the Rams couldn’t create a threat against Mattoon starter Austin Warrem.
The Rams finally cracked through in the sixth when Thomas and Young started a rally with a hit followed by a walk. Colten Meador moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
Pat Bradford laced an RBI single up the middle.
Flota followed with an infield single that pushed another run home. The scores gave Mt. Vernon a 2-0 lead.
Thomas Weber threw a pair of hitless innings in relief of Flota.
Defensively, the Rams made several strong plays late in the game.
Williams and Sawyer Harrison started the inning with a pair of solid plays behind Weber.
“Defense has been great for us this year,” Holloway said. “It’s been a trademark of ours for a while. (I’m) really pleased with how solid they’ve been. You’re going to make some great plays now and then, but they’re making the routine plays every time.”
The second half of the doubleheader was another pitcher’s duel.
This time Thomas squared off against Mattoon’s Alex Stone. The Rams got just two hits in the game but made the most of them because of their fundamental approach.
Thomas walked with one out in the first inning. He moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on a fielder’s choice. Meador provided a clutch hit with a single to give the Rams a 1-0 edge. Hayden Poninski knocked a single, stole second and moved to third on a fielder’s choice. Thomas grounded a ball to second base, allowing Poninski to trot in for a 2-0 lead.
“The wind’s blowing in,” Holloway said. “There’s not going to be a lot of balls hit in the gaps today, but some days you have to do whatever you can to get that run scratched across.”
Mattoon was able to get several hits against Thomas but the lefty hurler kept the Green Wave from stringing together a big rally. Mattoon had a trio of hits in the opening three innings but stranded every runner.
The Green Wave closed to within a run in the fourth with an RBI groundout.
Late in the game Thomas and the Rams defense used pickoff moves as their best defensive weapon. Thomas erased a base runner with a move in the fifth.
In the final inning and runners at first and second with no outs, Mt.
Vernon pulled its craftiest defensive move of the day. Thomas faked a throw back to second base and tucked the ball into his glove. The Mt. Vernon defense pretended the throw went bouncing wildly into center field.
The charades fooled the Mattoon runner who broke for third base but was easily tagged out. The play helped Thomas work out in the final inning without conceding the tying run.
“It was definitely a call from coach,” Thomas said. “We have run that play for years. A good time to use it is the last inning. Fortunately it worked that time. It doesn’t always work, but we got them that time.”
The Rams are 5-2 and are scheduled to host Benton today.