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PREP BASEBALL: Runs aplenty in Fairfield's season-opening win over Goshen

Mar. 26—BENTON — It seemed like a typical Midwest March baseball game.

With a last-minute venue change only adding to chilly conditions and howling winds sweeping through the area, Fairfield worked past the outside obstacles to put up a crooked number in the third inning to pave a path to its 15-7 season-opening win over Goshen.

The Falcons' 12-run third inning shined a light on the contrast in both teams entering the new season.

"Yeah, that was a huge inning for us," Fairfield head coach Darin Kauffman said. "What a weird first game, right? We just kept the pressure on, hit a lot of fastballs that were right there. Our lineup is pretty potent. We got a lot of seniors and guys with experience."

The experience showed, led by senior Landon Miller who went 3-4 at the plate, finishing a triple short of the cycle in his five trips to the plate. His double in the first did no damage but it was his two-run home run in the third that gave Fairfield the lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Before that, Goshen was first to strike blood.

After leaving the bases loaded in the first inning, the RedHawks wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the second. Senior Payton Bontrager got underneath the pitch, sending a ball out to right center field that cleared the wall. The RedHawks led 1-0 making their way to bottom of the second.

Keegan Miller's two-run blast in the bottom of the frame sent his bat flying as the senior celebrated the two-run shot out to left field. Goshen sophomore starting pitcher Ryen Diaz walked three in the frame but got a pickoff at second base and a strikeout swinging to escape the inning.

Senior Caelan Miller reached on a strikeout that passed the catcher and settled at the backstop to leadoff the RedHawk's third inning. A fielder's choice grounder and strikeout followed before Goshen added another. Karter Marcum put a ball in play that caused the first of five Fairfield errors Tuesday night, allowing the runner at second to score. Bontrager took a pitch of the toe and a walk sent another run home to grant Goshen a 3-2 lead.

The bottom of the third dealt most of the afternoon's damage. Seventeen Fairfield batters took a trip to the plate in the home third, taking eight walks and connecting on four hits — including a two-run homer from Landon Miller to begin the train of 12 runs that were to pile up.

"Obviously the wind helped a couple of the at bats tonight," Goshen head coach JJ DuBois said. "I think the cold affected us in the big inning when our guys were standing around. I think that's probably what hurt us the most but I don't think the cold was the reason why we didn't win the game."

With Fairfield up 14-3, the Falcons coasted on to the 15-7 opening day victory at home. Fairfield's Owen Garrison earned the win, pitching four innings and striking out six while walking one.

Kauffman explained why shifting the game to Benton, and playing through the harsh conditions was the preferred path to take Tuesday afternoon.

"These nonconference games are huge to get in before we start conference," Fairfield's head coach said. "It's hard to make up games, I know it's not the most typical day to play. Could we reschedule? Yes, but you just never know when you get the opportunity and we want to get as many games in before conference as we can."

The head coach, returning for his seventh season, also explained what luxury it is to welcome back it's wealth of talent from last year's 24-7 team and the 14 upperclassmen that make up the 15-man roster.

"I think we added up but our seniors have played around 700 games over summer and high school so that's huge for us," Kauffman said. "We're probably one of the more experienced teams in the state. That had to play a bigger role."

LEARNING CURVES

DuBois is on the other end in terms of his group's experience. A large part of the RedHawks varsity roster are sophomores. With some upperclassmen sprinkled in, he expressed his patience with watching team grow.

"We knew we'd be young and it'd be a learning curve," DuBois said. "I just talked to the guys about we gotta learn from the mistakes, we can't dwell on them, but we need to learn them. That's where we're at. We have a really talented group of guys, but they're younger."

"I've seen some bright spots and I've seen some where I'm in the dugout saying 'well, they're sophomores,'" DuBois continued. "They can make every play but it's just thinking the game, learning the game and that's our job to try and teach them during the season."

Kauffman said he remembers that situation well when his group was beginning four years ago.

"I've been on the same side as JJ. We were young four years ago, and I know exactly how that is when things aren't going your way and it can kind of rattle," Kauffman said about the big third inning that seemed to linger. "It was kind of a close game if you take out that one inning."

Goshen (0-2) will look for its first win of the season when it hosts West Noble Wednesday night. Fairfield (1-0) returns to the field Thursday for a home matchup with Tippecanoe Valley. Both games are scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at matt.lucas@goshennews.com.