The Hannibal baseball team  was rewarded for braving the high 30 temperatures Monday night as the Pirates beat Western 9-2 to win their season opener.
“Over all we played well,” Hannibal coach Daryl Zessin said. “We were able to score nine runs. They weren’t all earned, but we hit the ball and put the ball in play and ran the bases pretty well. Over all I am pretty pleased.”
Hannibal scored six runs in the bottom of the second to take the early lead and never looked back.
With one out, James Koch singled. After a pair of walks to Gunnar Gollaher and Austin Lewton,  the Pirates had the bases loaded and still just one out. Trever Hertlein picked up the first RBI of the season for Hannibal when he drove in Koch with a sacrfice fly to center field. Colten Brummel then reached on an error that allowed both Gollaher and Lewton to score, giving Hannibal a 3-0 lead.
Brummel stole second and scored when Austin Kirby reached on Western’s second error of the inning. That brought Eric Hugenberg to the plate and he promptly singled. Kirby came all the way around to score, but there was some controversy on the play.
Western catcher Noah Lynch set up shop at the edge of the grass and the dirt encompassing home plate, right in the middle of the baseline. Lynch was planning to take the throw and hopefully tag out Kirby, but the throw short-hopped the Wildcat catcher and Kirby went right through him to score Hannibal’s fifth run of the inning.
Western coach Travis Ruppel wanted the Pirate junior called out for running into the catcher, but the umpires ruled Kirby safe.
“That was one thing that was emphasized in the MSHSAA (Missouri State  High School Activities Association) rules this year,” Zessin said. “The umpires were going to be adament that the catchers cannot block the plate if they do not have the ball. That is basically what happened.
“The throw was coming in and the catcher was standing right there in front of the plate,” the coach continued. “Austin (Kirby) really didn’t have anywhere to go. The ball hit the front lip and actually bounced over the whole area and (Kirby) ran into (Lynch). He was trying to get to the plate. It is what it is. The umpires called him safe because of obstruction of the catcher to the plate.”
Following Jordan Wilson’s RBI double that sent Hugenberg across the plate, Dalton Overstreet grounded out to end the inning.
“That (inning) kind of put us in control,” Hugenberg said. “It gave us a lot of momentum going into the rest of the game and (Tuesday).”
Before the third inning started though, Western’s coach continued to complain about the call involving Kirby. Ruppel brought out a rule book and the game was delayed about 10 minutes while the umpires discussed what happened and why they made their call. In the end, the call stood and Western played under protest.
Zessin said the fact that Western is an Illinois school and was playing in Missouri made no difference on the rules.
“The rules are the same,” Zessin said. “The National Federation of High School  baseball rulebooks, they are all the same. It is a point of emphasis in the state of Missouri this year  with that particular rule. Maybe that was not a point of emphasis in Illinois this year, I don’t know.”
Hannibal added a run in the fourth and two more in the sixth. Western scored its two runs in the fifth.
On the mound, Wilson (1-0) got the start for Hannibal. The senior pitched three scoreless innings and struck out five while allowing just two hits and two walks.
“I was a surprise for sure,” Wilson said. “I am usually a last inning type of pitcher. But it felt good to get out there and throw hard.”
With a conference game following the season opener, Zessin gave Wilson the season-opening start.
“Jordan did an oustanding job,” Zessin said. “He is normally a late inning type of guy, a one inning type of guy. But, we start conference play (today) and I kind of wanted to save our big guns for Kirksville (today) and for Boonville on Friday. He has pitched off and on here and there and always done a decent job. So I thought we are going to give the big guy the opener and see what he can bring for us.”
Wilson started on a quick note, striking out the first batter he faced on three pitches. During the opening at bat, Western’s leadoff batter never lifted the bat off his shoulder.
“At that point I was thinking it was going to be a pretty good day,” Wilson said. “I was throwing accurate and they weren’t wanting to hit it, so I was going to keep throwing it at them.”
Wilson also recorded the third out of the first inning on a called strike three. Zessin was pleased with the way his senior opened the Pirates’ baseball season.
“That was impressive,” Zessin said. “What can I say, that was impressive.
As a team, Hannibal banged out eight hits and drew five free passes.
“The offense was a little shakey at first,” Hugenberg said. “But started to tack on runs in the second inning and we started getting a few breaks. That was really great because we struggled at getting runs last year and hopefully we can keep it going all season.”
Hugenberg, who singled in the first for Hannibal’s first hit of the season, went 3-for-3 with a run scored, an RBI, and was hit by a pitch. Wilson was the only other Pirate with multiple hits, going 2-for-3.
Hannibal is 1-0 and will start North Central Missouri Conference play this afternoon with a game in Kirksville. Western falls to 1-3 with the loss.