CHANUTE — The Mustangs used a huge fourth inning and a stellar pitching performance by junior Ethan Tavarez to earn a 9-2 victory over Chanute on Saturday.
The game was moved to Neosho County Community College because of Iola’s soggy fields.
After three scoreless innings from each side to begin game one, Chanute got on the board first with a run in the fourth inning. In the bottom of the inning, Iola was able to come back with eight runs of its own.
Leadoff hitter Ben Cooper got the rally started with a single and center fielder Isaac Vink followed with a walk.
With the speedy Cooper and Vink on base, sophomore third baseman Derek Bycroft doubled on a 3-1 pitch to give Iola a 2-1 lead.
Nic Zimmerman reached on an error after Chanute recorded an out and after that the Mustangs’ patience at the plate paid off.
Tavarez and second baseman Blake Ashmore each drew walks and left fielder Kane Rogers was hit by a pitch to make the score 4-1.
Freshman right fielder Calvin Delich singled in another run and a Cooper sacrifice plated another run.
Vink capped the scoring in the inning with an RBI single.
Iola added an insurance run in the sixth inning after Bycroft singled and Zimmerman drove him in.
Tavarez earned the victory by pitching 5 1/3 innings and holding the Comets to just one run.
“I felt really good,” Tavarez said. “I trust my teammates even though it is the beginning of the season. I know that I just need to throw strikes and they will play good defense behind me when it gets hit to them.”
Tavarez’s strong start follows up good starts from Bycroft and Cooper on Tuesday and with its three top options clicking, the Iola rotation looks strong after one week of games.
“Ethan threw really well and got his breaking ball over too,” Iola coach Mark Percy said.
For game two, the Mustangs went deeper into their pitching depth and started senior Darius Greenawalt.
Greenawalt flashed the pitching prowess that has Percy so excited about him going into the season, but ultimately his control limited him to just two innings and he allowed two runs.
Iola got a run on a Tavarez sac-fly to score senior Coleson Wiggin.
Freshman Cal Leonard entered the game in the third inning and pitched 4 1/3 innings of three-run baseball to keep Iola in the game.
“That was really big because he is going to pitch a lot for us,” Percy said. “With pitch counts and sometimes two doubleheaders in a week, he is going pitch, there is no doubt about that. He has quite a bit of confidence for a freshman on the mound and he will just get better.”
Iola scored two runs in the third inning when freshman Casen Barker and Cooper scored on a Bycroft single, but those were the final Mustang runs as they fell 5-3.
The Mustangs finished the game with only three hits and their record falls to 2-2 this season with the home opener with Prairie View scheduled for Tuesday.
“We have to work on hitting,” Tavarez said. “We have to start hitting the ball a lot more. We have to get into it.”
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