QUINCY, Ill. – On paper, the Hannibal Hoots were favored to earn a pair of victories against a struggling Springfield Sliders team.
Hannibal outfielder Brant Vanaman knew that wasn’t guaranteed.
"You just can’t play down to the competition," Vanaman said. "In this case, we could have. But we stepped on the gas."
His three-run homer in the second game of Wednesday’s Prospect League doubleheader at QU Stadium made sure the Hoots got those two victories, beating the Sliders 9-1 and 11-7.
Hannibal (18-28) trailed Springfield, who extended its record losing streak to 19 games, 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth inning in the nightcap. Damian Yenzi led off the frame with a triple before Kellan Murray drove him in on a single to tie the game. After Joey Kalafut grounded out, Jacob Young singled home Murray, which made it 2-1 advantage. Gabe Worthington followed with a walk, and Vanaman belted a three-run homer to left two batters later to cap off the five-run inning.
"All it takes with this team is one hit and everyone is awake," Vanaman said. "It’s hard with all the doubleheaders, and we try to stay in these games. We want to get the wins, but afterward it’s definitely a relief."
Springfield (9-37) answered with three runs in the fifth, only for Hannibal to get those runs back in the bottom half. Kalafut had a two-run triple, and Young had a second RBI single.
Yenzi sealed the twinbill sweep – and a three-game winning streak – in the sixth with a three-run shot, which made it 11-5.
"It’s good to get two wins here," Hoots manager Clayton Hicks said. "It doesn’t matter who we play, if you’re 9-30 or 26-20. You have to play the game because these are college hitters and pitchers that know their stuff."
In the opener, the Hoots scored three runs in the first inning on Kyler Kent’s two-run single and an RBI double by Murray. The Sliders scored their lone run in the second inning, and the Hoots responded with six unanswered runs.
Jered Wegner hit a solo home run, his 12th of the season, to lead off the third. Worthington’s two-run double in the fifth made it a 9-1 game.
The Hoots totaled 21 hits in the doubleheader. Wegner, Yenzi, Young, Murray, Kent, Vanaman and Drew Gilin all had multiple-hit games.
"It doesn’t matter who we play, if you get on base it seems to brighten up the mood," Vanaman said. "Personally, I thought these were two of our better games."
Hannibal’s Sean Beaver threw six innings in the opening game, allowing one run on three hits while striking out five and walking two. Cooper Patterson threw a perfect seventh inning for the Hoots.
"We just wanted to come out and play hard," Kalafut said. "We didn’t want to be that team they ended their streak against."