SHUTDOWN SENIORS: Cub pitchers seal Tri-Valley championship

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Sports

May 9, 2017 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — Seniors Daylon Splane and Rayce Hoepker have been the glue to the Humboldt Cubs baseball team all season and fittingly enough, it was the two senior aces that locked down the Cubs’ second-straight Tri-Valley League championship on Monday in Humboldt.
After last year’s title, Humboldt coach Mike Miller had a difficult task in front of him, having to replace stalwarts like Jake Haviland, Rhett Smith, Tyler Korte and Corey Whitcomb. The thing Miller knew he could hang his hat on were his two aces and they have delivered.
“We knew we were going to have to rely on them this year after replacing so much from last year,” Miller said. “We knew these guys were going to have to lead and show people how we do things. They have been big.”
Hoepker and Splane combined to throw 10 2/3 innings on Monday and all together they allowed just one hit and two walks against Caney Valley. The Cubs swept the Bullpups 7-0 and 14-0.
“We’ve been pitching good,” Hoepker said. “The last four games we’ve only allowed one run.”
Splane got the ball in game one and got things rolling with another no-hitter which is becoming almost routine.
“I’ve thrown a no-hitter before, I hadn’t thrown a perfect game until this year,” Splane explained when asked about his performance.
Splane pitched the first six innings and struck out 10 Bullpups while allowing just one walk.
“It was good, because we took their bats away from them so they couldn’t get on base or score,” Splane said. “Our bats came alive too.”
Josh Vanatta pitched a perfect seventh inning and got two strikeouts to seal the combined no-hitter.
Splane’s big-time performance also translated to the offensive side, where he went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
In game two, Splane’s dominance at the plate continued. He went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored in the Cubs 14-0 romp.
On the mound, Hoepker was nearly as dominant as his teammate was.
Hoepker threw 4 2/3 innings and struck out four while allowing just one hit and one walk.
Vanatta picked up the final out via strikeout to seal the lopsided victory.
Hoepker was pulled with one batter left because the Cubs have the possibility of playing Cherryvale on Thursday to finish a game that was suspended due to rain with the Cubs leading 4-0 in the fifth inning.
The game loomed large in the league standings, because going into Monday, both squads had just one loss in league play, but Cherryvale lost to Erie, 6-5, on Monday night to guarantee the Cubs at least a share of the title.
If the game is played on Thursday, Hoepker will be able to finish the game he began on April 25.
Regardless, the Cubs sweep coupled with Cherryvale’s loss guarantees at least a share of the Tri-Valley League title for Humboldt.
“It is great and a good thing to do for senior year,” Splane said.
After losing in the first round of basketball regionals this season — despite being the top-ranked team in the state — the Cubs are ready for a redemption run to the state baseball tournament.
“It sucked losing, especially when it was my last game,” Hoepker said. “We went to state (in baseball) my sophomore year and I have wanted to go back in any sport ever since then. We have a good chance to do it this year.”

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