Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
WELLMAN – Energy, enthusiasm, timely hitting, sharp pitching. It was all missing for West Branch during a 5-0 loss to Mid-Prairie in the opening game of a River Valley Conference South Division doubleheader on Monday.
Matt Paulsen made sure West Branch got all of that early in game two.
Paulsen had a first-inning RBI double that gave the Bears a lead and some early momentum.
The sophomore made that lead stand up, tossing a two-hit shutout as West Branch downed Mid-Prairie 10-0 in five innings in the nightcap to salvage a doubleheader split.
“It’s all about the energy and momentum,” Paulsen said. “The first game we were pretty flat and we came out with energy the second game and that was the difference.”
Paulsen fanned six and allowed just a pair of singles in the five-inning complete game as West Branch improved to 7-11 on the season and 5-9 in RVC play.
Mid-Prairie dropped to 7-11 and 5-8 in RVC contests.
“He’s been solid all year for us,” West Branch coach Rich Stout said of Paulsen. “He mixes his pitches well and he just keeps them off balance and we played pretty solid defense behind him.”
After being shutout for the third time this season by Mid-Prairie starter Collin Gingerich in the opener West Branch wasted no time getting going in game two.
Paulsen ripped a double down the left field line to put West Branch up 1-0 just three batters into the game.
He scored on a two-out RBI single by Pete Espensen that put West Branch up 2-0.
“I thought it was really important the first couple of innings getting on them because we didn’t have any timely hits the first game,” Stout said. “Breaking through and getting some big hits was huge confidence wise for our guys.”
West Branch had six hits in the opening but couldn’t get the big hit.
That wasn’t a problem in the nightcap.
West Branch broke the game open with a four-run third inning that was capped by a two-out RBI single by Brad Hunger that scored Espensen.
“You can’t get down on yourself you have to stay mentally tough you have to go in with the mindset that you are going to get a hit,” Espensen said. “Our mindset the first game we were thinking we were going to make outs and the second game we went up there thinking we were going to get hits.”
That was more than enough for Paulsen.
The sophomore right-hander allowed a single to Brad Tornow leading off the game and then didn’t give up another hit until Jacob Leonard singled to start the fourth.
“The curve ball was really working and I was just hitting spots tonight,” Paulsen said. “The offense really helped me out. It gives you a lot of confidence to pitch with a lead.”
West Branch put the game away with four runs in the fifth.
Cade Aspelmeier and Brady Lukavsky both drew bases loaded walks and Ted Bridges had the big hit, a two-out, two-run single to left that put West Branch up 10-0.
Paulsen worked around a one-out walk and a hit batsman in the fifth to secure the win, getting pinch hitter Peyton Miller looking to end the game.
“Matt is a really good pitcher,” Espensen said. “When the infield and the outfield and dugout gets behind him he always throws a great game.”
West Branch 204 04 – 10 6 0
Mid-Prairie 000 00 – 0 2 1
W – Matt Paulsen L – Brad Tornow
2B – WB: Matt Paulsen