Chilly, un-baseball-like weather on Tuesday was not about to deter Eann Cox and batterymate Kendall Patrick from making a big splash for the Black Hawk Braves in a critical early-season Arrowhead Conference twinbill with league nemesis Kishwaukee.|
Both Braves sophomore leaders came up big in pacing BHC to what coach Arnie Chavera called a "statement sweep.'' The Braves rode Cox's pitching to an 8-2 victory in Game 1 and then they erupted for a 20-4 victory against a shorthanded Kishwaukee club in the nightcap.
"Every year, it's usually us and them for the conference title,'' said Patrick of the significance of the sweep. "Going 3-1 against them in the four-game series (they split on Saturday, with the Braves losing in extra innings) definitely gives us a leg up throughout the rest of the season as far as conference.''
In the opener, Cox, the former Erie-Prophetstown standout, dominated on the mound. The right-hander had all three of his pitches working as he baffled Kougars batters. He struck out a collegiate-high 13 – including six in a row in the first three innings. He allowed just five hits as he won for the first time this season in four decisions.
Patrick, who launched three homers in the twinbill, spurred an offense that pounded out 27 hits in the sweep. He also pulled off a baseball rarity, ripping two homers in the same inning – delivering a two-run blast in his first at-bat in the 13-run third inning of Game 2 and followed that with a three-run line shot that just cleared the left field fence. For the day, Patrick was 5-for-6 with five runs scored and nine RBIs.
"I have had two in one game a couple of times, but never two in one inning,'' said Patrick of his plate prowess. "Three in one day is also a record.''
Chavera, a former Houston Astros farmhand, marveled at Patrick's big inning.
"I have never seen that in my career as a player or a coach,'' said Chavera of the dual clouts. "That's a special moment for a player.''
Patrick also enjoyed the up-close look at Cox's effort in the opener as much as his own success.
"One word summed it up `unbelievable,''' said Patrick. "From a catching standpoint, I've never caught a funner game. It was enjoyable catching that.''
Cox enjoyed finally pitching well in getting a win.
"We lost one close game to these guys on Saturday and I wanted to make sure we sent a message the first game, showing them we weren't going to let them take any more from us,'' said Cox. "Saturday's loss got under my skin and that lit a fire and it showed.
"The curveball has been up-and-down all year and for the most part, I had it today. It's a good feeling when you're curveball is working and you see it buckling guys' knees. It makes you feel real good on the mound, real comfortable.
Chavera was glad to have two key cogs step up in such an important twinbill.
"We've been waiting for the old Eann Cox to come back,'' said Chavera after his club moved to 7-9, 3-1 in the league. "That's how he threw his last five games last season. I could see it in his eyes before the game that he had something to prove. … He was dominating.''
Kish (2-11, 1-3 Arrowhead) was hampered in the nightcap without starting sophomore shortstop Caleb Shore, who was removed from the lineup for "internal reasons,'' according to coach Josh Pethoud who was ejected from the opener. Kish committed nine errors in the nightcap.