STERLING – After a pair of close games against a close conference rival this week, the Sterling baseball team was itching to show some power.
Ten singles and a pair of doubles don’t appear to be as menacing as multiple extra-base hits, but making contact at the right time was all the Golden Warriors needed Thursday.
Sterling batted around in the first inning and didn’t look back in sweeping a Northern Illinois Big 12 West Division series against Geneseo at Gartner Park, winning 10-0 in five innings.
The Golden Warriors (10-4, 3-0 NIB-12 West) banged out six singles and scored five runs off Maple Leafs starting pitcher Jake Winslow. Jake Alston drove in two runs with a single, and Trey Morse, Bryce Campos and Vincent Padilla also drove in runs on singles.
“Last year, Geneseo was the only conference team that beat us,” Alston said. “Going into this series, we knew it was going to be tough. Our first two games were really close, but we really pushed through. Tonight to go out there and 10-run them was huge.”
The five-spot was plenty of help for Golden Warriors starter Cooper Willman.
Willman allowed just one hit and struck out three in four shutout innings. While his curveball didn’t quite pan out, he caught Geneseo hitters off-guard with changeups and fastballs.
“We really wanted to sweep them,” Willman said. “We came out and showed it. We’ve really stuck to the wire a lot recently, and once it gets warmer, we want to get our bats going. It was good to see what our team can do when we’re hitting well.”
Cooper’s older brother, Tyler, had Sterling’s first double, driving in Morse in the second inning for a 6-0 lead. After stranding a runner in the third, the offensive barrage continued in the fourth inning with four runs on three singles and a double. Campos and Alston had RBI singles, and Padilla had a two-run double with bases loaded.
Alston and Padilla each went 2-for-3 with three RBIs; Campos went 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs.
“We always expect a dogfight when we play Geneseo,” Sterling coach Nick Pepper said. “They’re a rival in multiple sports for us. The first two games were close ones, and that’s a good learning experience for the guys. Tonight we came out aggressive and really hit the ball well, like we should.”
The lone hit for the Maple Leafs (5-8, 0-3) came from Parker Magress in the second inning. Cooper Willman allowed only one other baserunner, who reached on a fourth-inning infield error; Trey Morse closed the game with a 1-2-3 fifth inning.
Geneseo had to dig deep into its pitching reserves, as three of its top four hurlers are injured.
“One of them’s walking in a boot over there, and another’s in a sling right there. We’re running low,” Geneseo coach Scott Christiansen said. “We had two tight games with them, and they were heartbreakers for us.”
Sterling hosts defending NIC-10 champion Freeport on Saturday to try to extend its winning streak to four games, which would match a season high.
“When our team plays at its full potential,” Alston said, “this is what it can do.”
Sterling 10, Geneseo 0, 5 inn.
Star of the game: Jake Alston, Sterling, 2-for-3, 3 RBI, 2 runs, SB
Key performers: Vincent Padilla, Sterling, 2-for-3, 3 RBI, 2B; Cooper Willman, Sterling, W, 4 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 SO; Bryce Campos, Sterling, 3-for-3, 2 RBI
Up next: Freeport at Sterling, 10 a.m. Saturday