By Jim Rueda
---- — MANKATO — Mankato West sophomore pitcher Ryan Schlichte proved the old baseball adage once again on Thursday: It’s not how you start the game, it’s how you finish.
Schlichte recovered from a shaky first inning to throw a three-hitter and lead the Scarlets to a 5-2 Big Nine Conference victory over Mankato East at Wolverton Field. It was West’s second 5-2 win over the Cougars in as many days.
“Yeah, I had a pretty slow start today,” Schlichte said. “After that I kind of found my rhythm.
“My fastball and changeup were working well. I got a lot of key outs with the changeup earlier, and then I came back with the fastball late.”
East jumped on Schlichte for two runs in the bottom of the first as Sean Allen reached on an error, Jordan Grams walked and Drew Quame cleared the bases with a triple to right field. Schlichte walked two more batters before getting out of the inning without any further damage.
West coach Ethan Anderson said his pitcher’s slow start may have been the result of a lack of preparation.
“I was pretty darn close to pulling him (in the first),” Anderson said. “He didn’t spend a lot of time in the bullpen warming up before the game.
“By the time he got to second inning he was ready to go. We talked about it, and if he would have thrown just another 20 pitches in the bullpen I think he would have had a better start.”
Schlichte was in control the rest of the way. He had one stretch where he retired 12 of 13 batters, with the only runner reaching on an error.
He allowed a base hit and walk in the sixth and did the same in the seventh before closing out the win. The right-hander finished with nine strikeouts and five walks
Trailing 2-0, West got a run back in the second when Devin Ries reached on an error and eventually scored on a base hit by Isaac Weber. The Scarlets took a 3-2 lead in the fifth as Josh Cook stroked an RBI double to left center and later scored on a fielder’s choice.
A single by Ian Schwickert and two more errors gave West a 4-2 lead in the sixth, and Cook’s solo homer to straight-away left capped the scoring in the top of the seventh. Cook finished 2 for 2, adding a double and a sacrifice bunt and two RBIs.
“I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well lately,” Cook said. “I was waiting on the curveball (in the seventh) and he gave me one up and I hit it out.”
Nick Brink was solid on the mound for East but didn’t get much support. Only three of the five runs he gave up were earned.
“He did a nice job of competing today,” East coach Dan Quame said. “It’s been the story of our season; we make a few defensive mistakes and we can’t seem to get the timely hits.
“In that first inning we scored twice and had a runner on third with nobody out but couldn’t get him home. Ryan Schlichte is a good pitcher so I felt that was an opportunity we had to take advantage of and we didn’t”
The Scarlets (9-5) have an 11 a.m. doubleheader on Saturday at Rochester John Marshall. East (1-12) plays a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Monday at Faribault.