Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – West Branch needed a win.
The Bears needed to get out of a rut in which they dropped seven of nine games and get back on track.
With its district opener three days away West Branch needed to build confidence for the postseason, get its offense in gear and tighten down its pitching and defense.
Most of all the Bears needed to have some fun.
West Branch got all of that and then some on Wednesday night against perennial power Wilton.
The Bears exploded for 11 runs in the second inning and cruised to a 17-0 four-inning win over Wilton (5-6, 4-6) in a River Valley Conference South division matchup in West Branch.
“We’ve been in a rut,” West Branch coach Andy Lapel said. “We let a couple of games get away and we are still learning but this was a big one for us. We needed one like this. The guys coming out tonight and playing like that it was good to see.”
West Branch entered the shortened season coming off a state tournament trip a year ago and ranked sixth in Class 2A.
Following a 2-2 start to the season West Branch lost five straight and entered Wednesday coming off a disappointing 7-6 loss to Durant on Monday.
The Bears put all of that behind them on Wednesday.
All nine West Branch starters hit safely as the Bears hammered 18 hits while improving to 5-9 on the season and 5-5 in RVC play.
“That was so big for us to get out of that slump that we were in,” Eagle said. “Coming into the season ranked fifth and then dropping five games in a row that is going to bust anyone’s confidence up but it was super big to get back in that we can beat anyone on any night mentality.”
Eagle tossed a two-hit, four-inning shutout and had three hits including an RBI double and Cael Fiderlein slammed a three-run home run as West Branch snapped a 16-game losing skid to the Beavers that dated back to 2013.
“They are a historical program, they are always good,” Fiderlein said. “Last year we dropped a couple of tough ones to them so it was nice to be able to take one from them after a lot of tough years against them.”
The tide turned early as Eagle escaped a bases loaded jam in the top of the first catching Nolan Townsend looking to end the inning.
Eagle then gave the Bears an early 2-0 lead when his hard line drive one-hopped over the left field fence for a ground rule double that plated Tanner Lukavsky.
“It’s huge to go into Saturday with that confidence knowing with the rough stretch that we’ve had that we can still be the team that we thought we were going to be,” Eagle said. “Tonight was really good to get our confidence back.”
The Bears really had some fun in the second inning.
West Branch sent 15 batters to the plate and had 11 hits during the 11-run second-inning explosion.
The first 11 batters of the inning reached base as West Branch got RBI doubles from Brad Hunger, Gavin Hierseman and Gage Gingerich during the 11-run inning.
“It was a big weight off our shoulders because we know what we can do with our bats and we want to come out here today and show it,” Fiderlein said. “I was joking with Trey telling him he was going to be cold when he had to go back out to the mound but it was great to have that type of inning.”
Fiderlein ended the game via the run rule in the fourth inning when he lined a pitch over the left field fence for a three-run homer.
“It felt good, we needed that pretty bad,” Fiderlein said. “We had come off a couple of tough losses and we wanted to get back out here and get our bats going again before districts.”
The offense stole the show for West Branch on Wednesday but Eagle was equally impressive on the mound.
Eagle fanned 11 and walked one allowing just a pair of fourth-inning singles.
The senior right-hander struck out three in the first, second and third innings.
“For me the best part was to see Trey get back on track on the mound,” Lapel said. “He hasn’t been himself and to see him get back out there and pitch his butt off today was great.”
West Branch will host Class 1A fifth-ranked Alburnett in its regular season finale on Thursday before opening postseason play at Williamsburg on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“Senior night was Tuesday but we told those guys that we were going to play for them tonight because it’s possibly the last time on this field,” Fiderlein said. “We came out and did what we needed to do for them.”
Wilton 000 0 – 0 2 2
West Branch 2(11)0 4 – 17 18 0
W – Trey Eagle L – Patrick Barszczewski
2B – WB: Trey Eagle, Brad Hunger, Gavin Hierseman, Gage Gingerich
HR – WB: Cael Fiderlein