GODFREY — Given the nature of junior college athletics, Randy Martz knew heading into this season that there was a good chance of a good bounce or two.
That’s because the Trailblazers’ roster is packed with 19 sophomores. That’s about as experienced it gets at the two-year JUCO level, of course. And those sophomores are not just any old second-year players, according to Martz.
“They’re good sophomores,” Martz said. “Having sophomores is kind of like gold because of their experience, but of course they need to have learned from the experience.
Evidently the Trailblazers have learned well. They rolled past St. Charles Community College 17-6 in seven innings Tuesday at L&C.
The game was scheduled for nine innings but was called after seven because of the NJCAA 10-run rule. The schedule originally called for a pair of seven-inning games but coaches elected to play one nine-inning game.
“St. Charles was a little down on pitching,” Martz said. “They had two conference games over the weekend and asked if we’d play one nine-inning game.”
Lewis and Clark pounded out 14 hits against the Cougars and pushed their record to 8-5. It was the Trailblazers’ fifth victory in their last seven games, dating back to the last two games of their spring trip to Orlando, Florida.
After spotting St. Charles a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, L&C came to life with a pair of runs in bottom of the first, then added five more in the second before exploding for eight runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth.
“Yeah, we were hitting the ball pretty well today,” Martz. “We’ve been getting good results when we score a lot like that, which isn’t always the case. But in some of the lower-scoring games, we’re having a little more trouble.”
“We’re getting some performances out of sophomores like Blake Vandiver, Tate Wargo, Chris Iazzetta,” Martz said.
Vandiver, a redshirt sophomore from Roxana, is hitting .560 and had a walk-off home run in the second game of Monday’s 10-7 win over Parkland. Wargo is batting .375 and Iazzetta .571 with a homer.
While the Trailblazers have relied on that sophomore experience in its early games, a pair of freshmen helped generate much of the offense in the Tuesday win over St. Charles.
Ernest Plummer, an L&C freshman from Danville, had the big hit in the fourth inning, a bases-clearing double. He went 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
Seth Nast, a freshman from Wesclin High in Trenton was also 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
Lewis and Clark scored five of its runs on balls that got past SCCC catcher and went to backstop.
L&C’s Dylan Hansen a sophomore from Fort Zumwalt West High, got the win on the mound Tuesday. He worked five innings, allowed three hits, two runs, walked two and struck out five.
The Trailblazers came into Tuesday’s game on the heels of a pair of doubleheader splits with Parkland Sunday and Monday in their first outings back in the Midwest following the eight-game trip to the Russ Matt Invitational in Florida March 7-12.
“It was a really good spring trip,” Martz said. “The weather was great and it was nice and warm. We were able to get a lot of playing time in and that’s the main reason for the spring trips.”
The Trailblazers were 5-3 in the invitational. In their last two spring games, they downed St. Cloud Tech 11-1 in 10 innings and Vermillion 7-1 before heading home.
“The transition from a spring trip like that can be a little tricky,” Martz said. “You’re going from warm weather and ideal conditions to cold weather and not-so-great conditions.
“The dirt is different, the grass is different. I’ve had teams that didn’t transition so quickly, but I think having so many sophomores who’ve been through it before has helped. We’re transitioning pretty well.”
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