The Franklin County Wildcats won the first three games of the 2021 baseball season last week, returning to Jim Hughes Field for the first official time since the 2019 campaign.

After outlasting Indian Creek in the season opener Tuesday, 13-12, the Cats made it two straight walk-off wins with a 9-8 victory over visiting Richmond on a windy Saturday. A 10-run second inning in Saturday’s Game 2 led to a 14-2 win in five innings.

In an intriguing start to the doubleheader with the Red Devils, Richmond knotted things at five apiece in the top of the sixth before FC bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the frame. The Devils then recaptured the lead with a 3-run seventh.

Trailing 8-7, FC got a leadoff double to center field off the bat of senior Garrison Siedling and classmate Conner Roleson replaced him as a pinch-runner. Junior Remington Watters grounded one to shortstop but Roleson advanced on the play. Senior Brady Brandenburg then greeted new pitcher Nick Whalen with a triple to deep right-center for the tying run.

With the winning run just 90 feet away, senior Garrett Ertel stroked one over the left fielder’s head and ran from his mobbing teammates after crossing first. The long winning single also put a W in Ertel’s pocket as a hurler, as he finished off the Devils in the top of seven.

The Cats held a 5-2 lead after five, which turned out to be precarious based on the Richmond sixth. Facing senior southpaw Joe Fields, the Devils got consecutive singles from Colton Fox, James Weigel and John Carter to start the stanza. A strikeout later, Jackson Holland made it 5-4 with a sacrifice fly to right. A double to right field by Whalen tied the game. Fields coaxed a flyball to right to end the frame.

Ertel started a rally in the sixth with a clean single to left off Fox. Senior Garrett Darwish reached on a throwing error by the RHS shortstop. Junior Hunter Geis sliced a flyball to foul territory in right, earning the sac fly when Ertel scored. With two outs, sophomore Brant Ertel made it 7-5 with a two-base hit to left.

Richmond again put Fields’ feet to the fire in the seventh. A single by Wyatt Wolfe preceded an RBI double by Casey Blevins, who started the game on the mound for RHS. An out later, Carter tied the game at 7 with a single into left; he moved to third on a steal and wild pitch. Another sacrifice fly by the No. 9 hitter sent Richmond ahead. Fields gave way to Ertel after a single by Holland. The latter got Whalen to ground out to second.

Brandenburg started for the Cats, pitching into the fifth. In that frame, he retired the first two before surrendering a walk and single. Fields relieved and promptly struck out Wolfe on three pitches.

FC built the lead with four runs off Blevins and one more off Fox. In the bottom of one, Fields triggered a one-out rally with a single to right. B. Ertel then smacked a single to left. An infield hit by junior Austin Short brought in Fields with the first run. Siedling pulled a double down the right-field line to make it 2-0.

Brandenburg struck out the side in the second, but Richmond tied things in the third around two more whiffs. Fox had an RBI single and Hayden Scalf singled. A pickoff try at first went into right field, scoring Fox.
Run-scoring hits by G. Ertel and Watters, along with a triple/wild pitch combo for Fields, helped FC to a brief 3-run lead.

RHS went up 1-0 in the second game off the starter Roleson, scoring an unearned run. It wouldn’t matter after FC batted in the second.
Weigel opened the frame on the mound but was yanked after six runs came in and the first eight reached base. Sophomore Chase Burton started the big inning with a single to left; he’d go on to score twice and add a two-run single before it was over. Everyone in the lineup scored and other RBIs went to G. Ertel (2), Roleson, Geis, Fields (2), B. Ertel.

Whalen suffered more damage in the bottom of four as FC put together a 4-run rally after two were out. Burton was again the spark by drawing a walk. Darwish singled and G. Ertel completed a 5-hit, 6-RBI day with a double to center. Watters knocked in Ertel with a single to left, chasing Whalen. Nick Chaney came in to relieve and Roleson’s fly to left was misplayed for a two-base error.

At 14-1, Roleson needed three outs to finish the game. He hit the leadoff hitter in the fifth and Holland singled. Roleson then earned the rare four-strikeout inning for the win; on one of those, Richmond got to first on a passed ball. He ended with 9 punchouts.

Watters, Fields and B. Ertel added 3 hits each to the Cats’ doubleheader sweep. Short threw out 3 baserunners from the backstop and Fields swiped a pair of bags.

FC (3-0) will host conference rival East Central Thursday afternoon. Vs. Indian Creek (March 30)

Finally playing after a two-year break, FC overcame a series of defensive errors (7) and mental mistakes and being outhit 13-6 to get the one-run victory over the Braves of Indian Creek. Short provided the game-winning hit, driving in Fields in the final at-bat.

B. Ertel started for the Cats but only one of his 6 surrendered runs was earned; he struck out 5. Fields allowed 3 earned runs and Brandenburg notched the win by pitching the top of seven.

G. Ertel totaled 3 hits and 3 RBI, Fields had 2 hits and Short a couple more batted in. Fields stole 2 bases.