Gary Gilbert figures to benefit from his first season with Cape Girardeau's Craftsman Union Capahas in more ways than one.
Gilbert has been able to continue the hot hitting that marked the final few weeks of his rookie season with Southeast Missouri State University. Saturday, he went 5-for-8 for the undefeated Capahas in a doubleheader sweep of the visiting St. Louis Printers 4-2 and 10-5.
And Gilbert will be able to get in virtually a full summer of playing shortstop, the position he plans to handle for Southeast next season.
Gilbert was a shortstop for two years in junior college but played first base at Southeast this year because of the presence of standout Zach Borowiak. Borowiak also began this season with the Capahas but played just four games before being drafted in the 14th round by the Boston Red Sox.
"This is a real good opportunity for me to play shortstop. It will be nice to get ground balls on my home park," Gilbert said following the sweep at Capaha Field. "It should really help me get ready for next season."
Gilbert, after faring only so-so at the plate for much of his first season at Southeast, finished strong and wound up batting .301. He led the Indians in hitting during the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament with a .500 average.
"I'm seeing the ball well," Gilbert said. "I got in the middle of the season where I was trying to hit the ball too far, but I finished pretty strong and hopefully I can keep it going."
Capahas manager Jess Bolen likes what he sees out of Gilbert both offensively and defensively. Bolen said his shortstop position will be in good hands even without the slick-fielding Borowiak.
"All in all, Gilbert is swinging the bat better than anybody on the team," Bolen said. "And he's looked good at shortstop."
The Capahas (7-0) continued to look good in general Saturday and swept a doubleheader from the Printers for the second time this season.
Bolen's pitching staff in particular continues to shine. The Capahas received seven-inning, complete-game performances from Matt Stroup and Jon Nourie as both improved to 2-0.
In the opener, Stroup allowed six hits while striking out seven and walking three. In the second game, Nourie gave up three earned runs and five hits. He struck out nine, walked five and hit three batters.
"Our pitchers are continually holding down aluminum bats, and it's not realistic to keep doing that," Bolen said. "But they've been real impressive, and as long as we keep scoring, we'll be all right."
The Capahas had nine hits in each game.
Gilbert went 3-for-4 in the opener with a double and a run batted in. Lance Seasor went 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs.
Gilbert went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the second game and was the only Capaha with more than one hit. Wade Hansford delivered three RBIs and Josh Eftink drove in two. Jon Payne had the only extra-base hit, a double.
Veteran slugger Rick Mundy was the main offensive weapon for the Printers (2-5) and homered in each game. Mark Peer also had a home run. Jake Tippee finished the day with three hits.
"We keep playing good baseball," Bolen said. "We're winning and we're playing well, and that's what you like to see."
The Capahas face their first road tests of the season today when they visit a team in Springfield, Ill., for a 1 p.m. doubleheader. Craftsman Union's next home game will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the Cape Riverdogs.
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