Northwest Notches Season-Opening Sweep of Illinois Central

SENATOBIA – No. 15 Northwest delivered a strong start to the 2020 campaign last Saturday, opening with a pair of run-rule victories against Illinois Central at Jim Miles Field.

Northwest (2-0) will host Columbia State on Wednesday, Feb. 19 before traveling to Baton Rouge on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Game 1 – Northwest 10, Illinois Central 1 (7 inn.)

A scheduled nine-inning debut needed only seven for Northwest to earn a dominating win against Illinois Central.

Sophomore Kelton Hall delivered the first homer of the season for the Rangers in the bottom of the first, delivering a three-run shot to left center to score Brayland Skinner and Cade Spratlin. The Ingomar native struck again in the second with an RBI grounder to first to score Noah Hattier, extending the lead to 4-0.

Neither team would score again until the sixth, when Illinois Central got on the board with a Tom Smith RBI-single through the right side, cutting the Rangers' lead to 4-1.

Northwest issued a response in the bottom half of the sixth as Skinner's RBI-triple brought Hattier across the plate, extending the lead to 5-1 entering the seventh.

After the Cougars failed to score in the top of the seventh, Northwest would gather five runs across the plate in the seventh. Peyton Mills started things off with an RBI-single through the left side and Blake Miller followed with a groundout to second, scoring Hammer Franks.

Wesley Lester kept the scoring going with an RBI-single through the left side, followed by Garrett Riggs' walk-off homer to seal the deal.

Mills and Skinner led Northwest at the plate as both players finished 2-for-3 with an RBI apiece. In all, the Rangers earned a total of eight hits.

Parker Stinnett lasted four innings and struck out five batters against three walks with only one hit allowed. Jackson Smith also provided a solid relief effort with three strikeouts in two complete frames.

Game 2 – Northwest 13, Illinois Central 2 (5 inn.)

Dalton Fowler, Cooper Dowell and Hammer Franks issued a combined no-hitter as Northwest earned the season-opening sweep with a 13-2 run-rule victory against Illinois Central in five innings.

Franks got things started in the bottom of the first with a two-run double to left center and later scored on a throwing error from the catcher, helping the Rangers to a 3-0 lead.

Northwest followed up with a six-run effort in the second inning, sparked by a RBI-single from Tucker Richmond. Hall and Franks would then reach home on a pair of bases loaded walks, before Mills delivered a three-run double to left field to make it a 9-0 lead for the Rangers.

A quiet third inning gave way to four runs in the fourth, starting with a fielder's choice that sent Hall in from third. Cade Bell then knocked an RBI-single to left field, followed by a bases loaded walk that scored McGreger Lee and an RBI-single from Richmond, giving the Rangers a whopping 13-0 advantage.

Illinois Central spoiled the shutout with a bases loaded walk and an error at third base that scored Kendal Hofer, but that would be as close as the Cougars would come in the top of the fifth.

Northwest finished with seven hits, highlighted by a 3-for-4 effort with two RBIs from Richmond. Franks and Mills also finished 1-for-2 with three RBIs apiece.

Fowler (1-0) pitched four innings with eight strikeouts, two walks and no runs allowed. Dowell and Franks finished off the final frame, striking out three batters against four walks with a earned run allowed.