DIXON – Mother Nature finally allowed Dixon to play its home opener.
After losing its first three home dates to the weather, the Dukes hosted Stillman Valley in a nonconference doubleheader Saturday at Veterans Memorial Field. The visiting Cardinals built an early seven-run lead and cruised to a 10-2 win in the opener. Stillman Valley completed the sweep with an 11-9 win in eight innings.
“This is the first time we’ve played at home, and we had some nervous people out there,” Dixon coach Sam Gallucci said. “The guys didn’t give up, but we have a lot of rust. We’ve gone over this stuff inside, but to be out here and execute, it will take a little time to develop.”
The doubleheader was scheduled to begin at noon, but was delayed another half-hour due to preparing the wet, muddy field.
Dixon entered 1-2 after playing in the Galesburg tournament last week, while Stillman Valley was playing for the first time.
The Cardinals wasted little time getting going, building a 7-0 lead with two runs in the first inning, four in the second, and another in the third.
Two Dixon errors led to two unearned runs in the first. In the second inning, Stillman Valley got a two-run double from Jordan Turner and a two-run single from Todd Whitlow, who was 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Another of the runs was unearned due to a Dukes error.
“I have to keep that out of my head and just do my job,” said Dixon starting and losing pitcher John Thomas, who allowed six runs, three earned, in two innings. “I just missed some spots, and they had some big hits after some key errors.”
The Cardinals made it 7-0 with Andrew Marcum’s RBI single in the third. Marcum was 3-for-3.
Dixon got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third. Dan Pultorak reached on an error to lead things off. With two outs, freshman Riley Mehrens stroked an RBI single to center.
Stillman Valley all but put the game away with three more runs in the fifth, making it 10-1. Whitlow had a two-run double, and Tyler McKnight an RBI single.
The Dukes had an opportunity for a big inning in the sixth. Kelson Spinden led off with a double into the left-field corner, but was thrown out trying to stretch it for a triple. Ryan Dixon followed with a single, then was thrown out stealing. Jared Frey singled for the Dukes’ third straight hit before Alex Strum walked, and Pultorak singled to load the bases.
Jacob Tavitas drew a walk to force in a run, but Dixon left the bases loaded when Thomas, the No. 3 hitter, blasted a hard ground ball that reliever Connor McNames knocked down and gathered before throwing out Thomas.
It was the second time the Dukes left the bases loaded. Dixon left 10 runners on in all, though Stillman left 13.
Dukes reliever Ryan Dixon allowed four runs in two-plus innings before Mehrens hurled three shutout frames.
The Dixon trio of pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts. Mehrens had five, Ryan Dixon four, and Thomas two.
After 3 1/3 solid innings by Turner, who allowed one unearned run, McKnight came on for 2 1/3 innings and the win, allowing one run. McNames got the last four outs, three of them via strikeout.