MUSCATINE, Iowa — At this point, the formula for success is pretty simple for the Muscatine Community College baseball team.
Whether they are playing strong Iowa Community College Athletic Conference clubs like Iowa Western Community College, like they did Saturday in a doubleheader at Tom Bruner Field, or anyone else, the Cardinals just can’t afford to hurt themselves.
“We make routine plays and our pitchers will throw strikes, we can compete,” MCC coach Dave Barb said. “We don’t make routine plays like that, give them extra outs, we’re gonna get our butts kicked every time.”
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Saturday’s efforts leaned more toward the latter.
MCC (11-21, 1-11 ICCAC) committed seven errors total and struggled with consistency on the mound in the doubleheader against the Reivers (31-8, 9-3), miscues that helped Iowa Western sweep the twinbill with a 12-9 victory in Game 1 and a 14-1 victory in Game 2.
“Our defense is just really poor right now,” Barb said. “I don’t know what to tell you about that now. We can’t catch a ground ball, we can’t catch a pop-up.
"It’s not just one aspect of our defense. Our pitchers need to get better, our defenders need to get better.”
The Reivers didn’t need any extra help early on in the opener. Iowa Western leadoff man Dom Thompson-Williams homered to lead off the game and the Reivers simply added on against MCC starter Roswell Del Rosario as they built a 5-0 lead after 1½ innings.
MCC battled back to cut the lead to two in the third when Jake Redlinger hit a three-run homer to right center to make it 5-3 before Iowa Western added on, scoring four in the fifth inning, thanks in part to an Alejandro Lugo error and a Del Rosario wild pitch.
And while the Cardinals would not be able to catch the Reivers, they did make it interesting. Redlinger hit his second home run of the game, a two-run shot, in the sixth to cut the deficit to 11-5 and Robin Felix launched a three-run shot of his own in the seventh to cut the Reivers’ lead to three, but they could get no closer.
Redlinger finished the opener 3 for 4 with five RBIs while Felix was was 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
“We were one guy a way from having the tying guy at the plate in the last inning,” Barb said of Game 1. “That’s something I guess, if you want to take something away from this.
“We had a couple guys perform well this weekend. Redlinger had a great series, overall.”
There was little for the Cardinals to be encouraged about in the nightcap of the doubleheader and finale of the four-game series.
Iowa Western jumped ahead early and poured it on MCC starter Jay Peters, getting to the freshman right-hander for 10 runs in three-plus innings of work while Peters’ Iowa Western counterpart, right-hander Quinn Carpenter, had little trouble.
Carpenter pitched four shutout innings, giving up just two hits and striking out seven, all after hitting a pair of home runs in the first game, to help the Reivers cruise to victory in Game 2 and sending the Cardinals to their 12th straight loss.
Since returning from their trip in Florida in late March — where MCC went 7-3 — the Cardinals have lost 12 of 13 games, including five by three runs or fewer.
The lone win came March 29 at ICCAC co-leader Indian Hills, a brief glimpse at what this group could accomplish.
“It’s disappointing when you look overall what we’ve done these last 12 games, really,” Barb said. “We could split the series at Indian Hills and we’re ahead in three of the games [against] Marshalltown.”