Before the season, South Western baseball coach Mike Resetar was blunt with his team. He told the Mustangs they had the pitching and defense to compete. He wasn't certain about the offense.
The Mustangs combined for 22 runs over their first three games, and the production continued in Thursday afternoon's 8-3 home win against Dover.
"They're doing the things we're talking about: quality at-bats, seeing pitches," Resetar said. "They're swinging at pitches they can hit. I'm pleased with the way we've been playing, but we have a long way to go."
Credit designated hitter Tyler Sterner for much of the offense against the Eagles. He finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs. His sixth-inning double iced the game, turning a 4-1 lead into a 7-1 mountain.
The easy win came after a sluggish start.
Mustangs leadoff hitter Adam Spampinato started the game with a walk but didn't score after the next three hitters were retired. The first two Mustangs reached in the second, but Eagles starting pitcher Grant Hoover recorded two pickoffs.
"(Resetar) was pretty mad," Sterner said. "He even told the person going out to pinch-run not to move, and he got picked off."
Added Eagles coach Mat Eckenroth: "South Western is extremely aggressive on the basepaths. He had a plan that he's got to pick them off. He's got a good move. It saved him. It kept us in the game for a little bit."
The Mustangs (3-1) rebounded from their miscues with two runs in the third inning. Right fielder Parker Bean provided a sacrifice fly, and Sterner followed with his first RBI.
South Western used three stolen bases and two Dover errors in the third inning to extend its lead to 4-0.
Mustangs starting pitcher Brandon Utz didn't need much support. He threw four hitless innings before allowing a leadoff single in the fifth to Eagles catcher Curt Harman, who scored on a groundout by John Hodgson.
"Going into the fifth I knew it," Utz said of having a no-hit bid. "(Bishop Elder) told me, 'You're throwing a no-hitter.' I said, 'You don't tell me that. You just don't do that.'"
Despite Elder's superstition faux pas, Utz threw 5 1/3 innings, struck out two and allowed just one walk for the win. Reliever Louie Sauer earned the save despite allowing two runs over 1 2/3 innings.
Hoover took the loss for the Eagles, allowing four runs over 3 2/3 innings.
"He was pitching in deep counts," Eckenroth said. "He was struggling with his strike zone early. Credit to South Western, they had a good approach at the plate. I think they just wore him down. I don't think he got into a groove."
Utz, however, was, making a strong case to be the team's No. 2 starter behind Bean. Resetar entered the season unsure how his rotation would line up.
"We pitch by committee," he said. "We don't have the luxury of running a second and third guy out there. Our goal, if he can give us two or three innings, we'll take advantage of that and we'll go to the bullpen if we need to. We got a bunch of guys that can throw."
And, apparently, bat. The Mustangs finished with 14 hits despite what Resetar said were some early-season struggles for Bean, who finished 2-for-3. Resetar said that's a good thing.
"He won't struggle the whole year," Resetar said. "As soon as he comes out of it, that'll make us a little better offense."
SOUTH WESTERN 8, DOVER 3
Dover 000 010 2 -- 3 4 3
South Western 002 204 x -- 8 14 1
Do, Grant Hoover, Bryce Smith (4), Mitch Slater (6) and Curt Harman; SW, Brandon Utz, Louie Sauer (6) and Aric Bonner. SO-BB -- Hoover 4-6, Smith 1-0, Slater 0-1; Utz 2-1, Sauer 1-0. W -- Utz; L -- Hoover. 2B -- Do, Ross Drawbaugh; SW, Bishop Elder 2, Tyler Sterner; HR -- Do, Dalton Heim.