COLLEGE BASEBALL: Casey, Johnson help Odessa College sweep Seward County Community College

Chandler Casey and Shaston Johnson found themselves in similar early jams during their respectively starts for the Odessa College baseball team.

Seward County Community College had runners in scoring position with less than two outs, but the both Wrangler starters navigated through those moments with scoreless frames.

The Odessa College bats followed those clutch pitching performances with a wealth of runs en route to an 11-2 and 11-1 sweep against the Saints on Saturday at American Legion Park.

“I threw the ball where I was supposed to,” said Johnson, who pitched six innings, allowed six hits and struck out five to win the second game of the doubleheader. “I tried to keep it down in the zone and get groundballs and trust my defense. It’s always nice when you can trust them and it’s nice that they have my back when I needed them in tight situations like that.

“To have runners on third base and to come out of it with no runs was awesome.”

Casey also completed six innings as he gave up two earned runs on eight hits.

Odessa College head coach Kurtis Lay said his main goal for the 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-handed Casey is to funnel his early emotions into quality pitches. Casey allowed the two runs during the fifth inning when Errett Edwards and Addison Kaasch supplied back-to-back RBIs.

“Chandler is a great talent,” Lay said. “He’s got all the talent in the world, we just have to find a way to channel his emotions in those first two innings. He gets really excited and late in the game once he gets in a groove, he’s really tough. We are going to have to get off to a quicker start with Chandler, especially once we get into conference play.”

After Casey escaped the first-inning jam, the Wranglers (4-2) supplied three runs — which included a two-run triple from Tresten Kennard — to give them a 3-0 advantage.

Odessa College added to its lead in the bottom of the second inning with four runs on three hits. Mitch Holding — an Australian freshman catcher — notched his first home run of the season with a two-run shot over the left field fence.

“I was just looking for something straight and I got it and I put a barrel on it and I was pretty happy,” said Holding, who went 4 for 4 with four RBIs and scored four runs in the opener.

The Wranglers sandwiched Seward’s offensive output with a pair of two-run innings during the fourth and sixth. Kennard ended with two triples, four RBIs and one run scored. Seven of the nine batters for Odessa College finished with at least two hits.

In the second game, the Saints (4-8) had three straight innings to put runs on the board, but Johnson didn’t allow that to happen.

The 6-2, 170-pound freshman collected a groundout, flyout and strikeout to end those threats. Johnson used strikeouts to end the third, fourth and fifth innings.

Johnson, who lasted 3.1 innings during his collegiate debut against Galveston College on Feb. 11, said there were still a few jitters in his first home start, but those nerves went away after a strikeout closed out the third inning.

“That first game against Galveston I was nervous and then coming out here I was nervous, because as a pitcher it’s all about how my arm feels that day,” Johnson said. “Some days, like today, I didn’t think it felt that good. It’s nice to get those first two out of the way.”

Odessa College was also maximized rallies as the team recorded nine hits with two outs.

Cal Pequeno — an Odessa High graduate and Wrangler freshman catcher — went 2 for 4 with two-outs singles that each drove in two runs. Pequeno was hitless in his first four at bats with Odessa College. Kyler Castillo added two hits — which included a leadoff solo home run in the sixth inning — and three RBIs.

“We are trying to minimize strikeouts and put the ball in play and get some guys on base,” Holding said. “One thing turns into another and we might get a hit here and there. That’s an extra run and the scoreboard proves one run here and two runs here that we are getting extra runs from doing little things like that.”

Seward County Community College’s Jordan Pepper was tagged with the loss in the second game after he pitched 3.1 innings and gave up seven runs (one earned) on nine hits. Tabor Jones scored the lone run for the Saints in the seventh inning on a balk from Odessa College relief pitcher Wellington Belen.

The Wranglers continue their season hosting Colby Community College with a doubleheader beginning at noon today.

Matteo Bocchi — Odessa College’s No. 1 starting pitcher — will make his second appearance of the season. The 6-4, 200-pound right-handed pitcher allowed three runs on five hits over four innings against No. 2 San Jacinto-North on Feb. 10.

“Colby comes in here every year with a good club,” Lay said. “Our goal every time out is not only win the day, but to win the weekend. Our work certainly isn’t done. We’ve got a big task ahead of us tomorrow. I just want to see us play clean. I want to see us play solid, fundamental baseball throughout the day. That’s something that we are striving for. We just aren’t exactly there yet.”  

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