MOUNT VERNON — In frigid afternoon temperatures on Tuesday, the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets started their season cold.
The Jackets lost to Marion Harding, 11-3, in their opening game of the 2011 season.
The game was also the debut for former Mount Vernon assistant and Fredericktown head coach Matt Smith.
“I’m not sure we were 100 percent ready to play today,” Smith said. “And that’s on me as the head coach. I didn’t have them ready to play.”
At first, it looked like the Jackets were more ready than the Presidents. At 5 p.m., the scheduled start time, the Jackets were standing at the dugout waiting for Marion Harding to complete warmups.
Once the game started, it was clear that the Harding players were warmed up. And their bats were hot.
The Presidents peppered the outfield gaps with hits in the first two innings, scoring four runs. Aaron Gabriel had the first of two doubles in the first inning. He and Wes Blankenship both scored on a single by Shawn Tyler.
Shawn Maxwell, the starting pitcher for Mount Vernon, couldn’t keep Harding’s bats under control.
Throughout the game, Maxwell and Tyler, the two starting pitchers, painted the inside corners nicely. The Presidents were taking advantage of this, and smacking single after single through the infield. The Yellow Jackets were not.
“We struggled to get guys out,” Smith said. “We struggled to throw some strikes. (Maxwell) struggled to get the ball down in the zone. He got the ball up, and Harding hit it. Hopefully, it’s just one of those off-days that pitchers sometimes have. He’s a competitor.”
Tyler controlled the plate masterfully, striking out seven Jackets and walking no one in five innings of shutout baseball.
In the third, Maxwell gave way on the mound to Riley Swanson, who fared little better. He allowed one run on one hit in one inning but still walked three.
It was obvious that this was Game 1 for Mount Vernon. Swanson and Ben Hoar, two of the most dependable players on defense, had three errors between them.