Wins are great, but this weekend is about so much more for the College of Idaho baseball team.
Playing a rivalry that began back in 1934, the Coyotes hosted Whitman on Saturday in a twinbill sweep at Wolfe Field in Caldwell, beating the Missionaries 16-3 and 9-0.
The two teams face off again today in another doubleheader, starting at 11 a.m.
And there's no doubt C of I coach Shawn Humberger wanted to win, but the weekend had more meaning than just grabbing Ws for the C of I.
“We went in and just set some game goals of things we didn't do well in Arizona,” Humberger said of the weekend.
Goal No. 1: “Get one of the first two hitters of each inning on base,” Humberger said. “We scored some runs over there (Arizona) but we had to do a lot of two-out hitting, and it's tough to execute an offense without doing that, so we did a better job of that today.”
In Arizona, the Coyotes beat Wayland Baptist (Texas) 7-2 in large part thanks to an early two-out rally that saw the C of I plate four in the third inning. In the game, the Yotes managed to put a runner aboard with less than two outs three times, scoring in two of those innings.
Against Point Loma Nazarene, a 9-8 loss, the C of I again thrived on two-out rallies, scoring two after starting its rally in the first inning with two outs, then adding a two-out, none-on rally in the eighth that plated a run.
In the five frames when the Coyotes reached before the two-out mark, the drove in runs three times.
Since those two opening games, the C of I has not scored off a two-out rally since 34 innings – four games.
Conversely, against Fresno Pacific in an 11-3 C of I victory, the Yotes ran their offense well, putting runners aboard with less than two outs in every inning, putting pressure on the Sunbirds all game, and plating runs in four innings.
Against LCSC, in an 8-4 loss to the Warriors, the Yotes managed to score in two of the five innings they put runners aboard with less than two outs.
“You just can't rely on two-out hitting, it's tough to do,” Humberger said. “You have to get runners on base early in the inning, then you can do a lot of things to score runs.
“I thought (in Arizona) we had some 3-1 counts, some 2-0 counts with nobody on base and we swung at marginal pitches instead of trying – I don't care if you get a walk, drag bunt, just get on base somehow and we can run an offense, and we did that (today against Whitman).”
Goal No. 2: “We walked 22 guys in four games over there (in Arizona), and today we sent a goal of no more than three walks in a game and I think we had five on the day in the doubleheader, so that was much better.”
Against Wayland Baptist and Point Loma Nazarene, the Yotes walked three batters in each game, but against the SeaLions in a 9-8, late-inning loss, all the walks came in the final four frames, with two scoring.
Against Fresno Pacific, C of I pitchers walked eight, but managed to survived. They did the same against LCSC, and the Warriors made the Yotes pay.
Saturday against the Missionaries, freshman reliever Dylan Kowitz gave up a lead-off walk in the eighth, but a double play erased that free pass, then he walked a man in the ninth of the opener, but stranded him.
In the nightcap, starter Joshua Orr walked two batters, stranding both, and reliever Seth Raver walked a batter, who was stranded.
Five walks in two games, and no hit batters, limiting the damage Whitman could do thanks to free passes.
Overall, Yeggy struck out three and Kowitz got a big confidence boost after two relief losses in Arizona, with a K in two scoreless innings of relief.
Orr added five Ks and relievers Michael Garza, Raver and Bryan Hildebrand combined to strike out six in the final three frames.
“Josh threw - over there (in Arizona) he had really good stuff, he had seven strikeouts against a super team (Fresno Pacific), but he also had seven walks, and I thought the first three innings today was the best I've seen him throw, he had complete command,” Humberger said. “Those first three innings are something for him to build on.
“All three of those bullpen guys (Garza, Raver and Hildebrand), we're going to have to rely on, came in and pounded the strike zone.
Then in the first game, Dylan Kowitz took both of our losses over there (in Arizona), we were planning on using him as a closer and he's a freshman, he took some lumps over there.
“He came in and he didn't command the strike-zone and had like five walks. He had a couple today but he was much better, so that was something to build on, too.”
While it's the oldest rivalry for the C of I baseball team, the battle with Whitman also has been one-sided of late, with the Coyotes now winning the last 14 meetings heading into today's twinbill.
Of course, with the recent C of I success making this rivalry seem lopsided, to be fair, it was before the recent Coyote run as well – in the Missionaries favor.
Despite having dropped 14 straight – a run dating back to a 5-4 Whitman win during the 1995 season – Whitman continues to lead the all-time series 134-104.