By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Hillsdale Daily News on April 17, 2009
A first-year varsity player hitting his first varsity homer in his very first home at-bat is one way to set the tone.
The Hillsdale Hornets can thank Kirk Putnam for doing just that Thursday.
The junior slugger drilled a pitch over the left field wall as part of a six-run first inning in the first of two Hornet wins over the Hudson Tigers, in a non-conference double-header.
The Hornet bats were alive all evening, as Hillsdale compiled 19 hits and 24 runs in 14-5 and 10-6 victories, evening its record at 2-2.
If conference’s gave out Comeback Player of the Year awards, Putnam would be the early front-runner in the SMAA. He didn’t play a single game last season, sitting out due to a back injury and he only took a few at-bats over the weekend, yet Hornet head coach Chris Adams said he likes his power in the eight-spot and thinks Putnam is capable of hitting around .280 or .290.
“He’s got some pop and he’s strong, kind of in the mold of a Drew Berube or Matt Ryan,” Adams said.
While he provided some fireworks early on, Dillon Dirth was a hitting machine in the opener, getting three hits, including two doubles and driving in three RBI. He also scored three runs.
While senior stars Scott Lantis and Mitchell Gabriele struggled, going a combined 1-7, plenty of other players picked up the slack.
Kurtis Condon went 3-4 with two runs and an RBI, while Tyler Vanderberghe and Drew Byers both picked up hits off the bench.
“This might be one of the deepest teams I’ve had,” Adams said. “Today Lantis caught, played in the field and at second, and Mitchell pitched and played first, and he’s our everyday catcher; there is a lot of competition still taking place at the positions and I told guys not to be surprised when they move around.”
One thing that wasn’t moving around as much as Adams would’ve liked in game one was Darren Wisely’s fastball.
He earned the victory despite walking nine and allowing five hits and four earned runs. He struggled to get the ball up into the strike zone and he threw 113 pitches in just four innings of work.
Nonetheless, Adams said it is just some minor adjustments that needed to be made.
“He’s one of the guys who plays ball year round, and his dad is an assistant, so I’m not worried, we just have to work with him on some mechanics,” Adams said. “Four of his walks he had full-counts on, so he was close.”
For Hudson (4-4), Alex Middleton showed signs of brilliance, striking out Gabriele and Lantis back-to-back in the fifth, but giving up six runs in the first inning and three more in the third was insurmountable.
He struck out five, but took the loss after allowing 10 earned runs and 11 hits in five-and-a-third innings.
He was also one of Hudson’s bright spots at the plate, going 3-3 with two RBI.
Leadoff hitter Taylor Milligan was the definition of an “on-base” guy in the first game, walking five times and scoring three runs.
The nightcap also included a six-run outburst from the Hornets, but this time it was in the bottom of the sixth.
Condon’s two-run double put the Hornets ahead, and they added several insurance runs for good measure.
Dirth had another good outing in the second win, picking up a double and single and scoring two more runs.
Jenkins also added an RBI and two runs, while Wisely had two hits.
Gabriele started for Hillsdale and went four innings, allowing four runs (one earned) and striking out two, but it was Condon who picked up the win. He went the final three innings and gave up two runs on two hits.
Mitchell Webb suffered the loss for Hudson and the defense behind him didn’t help his cause. He allowed 10 runs, but only three of them were earned, as the Tigers committed four errors.
Luke Milligan led Hudson with three RBI.
COMING TOMORROW: FINALLY — A SIT DOWN WITH HILLSDALE COLLEGE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR DON BRUBACHER DISCUSSING THE INCIDENT INVOLVING THE COLLEGE NEWSPAPER, CHARGER BASEBALL TEAM AND ANIMAL CARCASSES.