Lilly fans 15 Mustangs in first start of season
MORRISON – Bryant Lilly doesn't believe one can be overprepared.
The Sterling junior could be seen throughout the school day Wednesday stretching his arm. Once the clock struck 4:40, getting in the extra stretches reaped mondo benefits.
Lilly struck out 15 batters in his first start of the season, and his Golden Warriors (11-14) put a 14-1 whooping on the short-handed Morrison Mustangs in a nonconference make-up game.
In the halls, even in class, Lilly subtlely loosened his firearm.
"Yeah, I'd just act like I'm stretching," he said.
He allowed just two hits and left Morrison coach Ben Sondgeroth wishing he had his full complement of ammunition. Starters Alex Fischbach, Andrew Connelly and Joey Brackemyer were out of the lineup.
"You wanna be able to go against them with all your bullets," Sondgeroth said.
The Mustangs (14-5) did, however, draw first blood. Shortstop Danny Willis walked, and fellow senior Alex Volckmann moved him to third by roping a single into right center.
"I'd been struggling the last few games, so I just wanted to get back to my mechanics," Volckmann said. "Stay tight. Straight to the ball. Poke it out to right field."
The fleet-footed Volckmann stole second base and, the moment the ball left Zach Rehmert's hand, Willis scampered home.
Aside from that, Willis had a rough day, as the Warriors relentlessly pounded the ball between third and short.
"He said his arm was hurting, too," Volckmann said. "We've had a long couple of weeks and have gotten a lot of wins out of it. But we're definitely going to rest up this weekend."
Willis had two of the Mustangs' six errors, and the Warriors beat out four infield singles. Rehmert got two of his three knocks that way, part of a 3-for-5, three-RBI day.
"It was nice to see us come out and be aggressive at the plate and put the ball in play on the ground," Sterling coach Robbie Minor said. "We've been waiting for that for a while. It's nice to see us put up some crooked numbers almost every inning."
That included four in the second and seventh and two in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
Sondgeroth started Mason Sitzmore (0-1), who had just two varsity innings under his belt. He allowed six runs – five earned – on three hits, but three of his four wild pitches in the second allowed the first three Golden Warriors to score.
The fourth crossed after Logan Rippy mashed a double off the left-field fence, just below the yellow guard.
"If he's struggling and he can't find his spots, you know he's going to stick with the fastball," Rippy said. "I was just sitting dead read."
Brock Deter worked the last 3 1/3 innings, five of the last eight runs being earned. He struck out three and walked three.
Aside from the first, the only inning Lilly (1-0) was remotely in trouble was the top of the fourth, when he walked Bill Lee Greul and Brock Deter to open the frame. But he struck out Connor Duncan with heat, Kollin Burns with the curve and then punched out Jamie Harden looking.
He fanned Kyle Meurs and Justin Jensen in the next frame for five in a row, and repeated the feat to close the game. After striking out the last two batters in the sixth, Lilly looked even stronger in the seventh.
"He was throwing harder than I've ever seen him throw before," Rippy said.
He struck out all three batters in the seventh with sheer gas.
"He's throwing the ball hard and hitting his spots," Minor said. "If he can miss with that curveball in the dirt, he's going to be pretty effective."
Sondgeroth hopes a little bit of mortality can help his Mustangs.
"I hope we can take something from it," Sondgeroth said, "and to understand what it feels like to come out here and lay an egg. Hopefully, the next time we get down we can respond better.
"But I never like getting beat."
Star of the game: Bryant Lilly, Sterling, 2-hitter, 15 strikeouts
Key performers: Zach Rehmert, Sterling, 3-for-5, R, 3 RBI; Alexander Volckmann, Morrison, 2-for-3, SB
Up next: Ottawa at Sterling; Morrison at Annawan-Wethersfield, both 4:30 p.m. today