Free State baseball captures home opener 7-1 over Bishop O’Gorman

Early bats and two sturdy performances on the hill led to a 7-1 victory for the Free State baseball team in Thursday’s home opener against Bishop O’Gorman of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Firebirds rotated two pitchers, junior starter Tyler Jeffries and senior reliever Tyler Vigna, and held O’Gorman to just three total hits.

Jeffries, through three innings, struck out three batters and allowed just one hit. Vigna then struck out five and gave up one run on two hits.

Free State coach Mike Hill was pleased with his pitchers’ poise.

“They worked ahead of people, which is exactly what we want to do,” Hill said. “We’re pretty good defensively, and we’ve got a chance to be pretty good, so we’ll need to use those guys. I thought our staff did that well today.

Jeffries picked up an early strikeout, surviving all three of O’Gorman’s leadoff hitters. The quick start set up the Firebirds’ first run by junior Kyle Graves, who crossed home plate on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first.

O’Gorman starter Jake Wheeler coughed up five runs on five hits in the bottom of the second, and a single by Vigna sent junior Mason Lester to third, but Wheeler struck out sophomore Ryan Weishaar to end the inning.

In the bottom of the third, O’Gorman was runless and trailing by six, and it switched pitching duties to Jackson Nantke with Free State’s Colton Berger on deck. Nantke gave up a pair of walks but a double play managed to save the inning for O’Gorman.

Then, in the top of the fourth, O’Gorman’s Zach Dunham singled to center field for the Knights’ first hit of the game. But Free State produced a double play of its own along with Vigna’s first strikeout of the afternoon, sending the game into the bottom of the fourth.

O’Gorman scored its first run on an RBI single by Sully Schlingen in the top of the sixth, but that would be the only bright spot for the Knights the rest of the way. Lester had an RBI single that crossed in Free State freshman Ben Graves for some insurance in the bottom of the sixth. And Vigna closed things out on the mound by delivering his fifth strikeout of the game against O’Gorman’s Trenton Fischer.

Vigna said Thursday’s game featured just a glimpse at Free State’s power.

“I think we can do some special things,” Vigna said. “We’re kind of flying under the radar right now. Not a lot of people are talking about us, but everyone in that locker room knows that we have a chance to win it all this year.”

Free State hosts Sioux Falls-Roosevelt on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Free State 150 001 X – 7 9 1

O’Gorman. 000 001 0 – 1 3 3

W – Tyler Jefferies; L – Jake Wheeler

Highlights for Free State: Vigna 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K; Jeffries 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K; K. Graves 2-for-4, RBI, Kern 2-for-3, RBI, BB; Lester 2-for-4, RBI.


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