Hunter makes most of opening-night start for Capahas baseball team

Sunday, June 3, 2012
Capahas pitcher Dustin Hunter delivers during Friday's opening-night victory over the Valmeyer, Ill., Lakers at Capaha Field. Check out more photos from the game at semoball.com. (ADAM VOGLER)

Dustin Hunter enjoys playing for the Plaza Tire Capahas, and he was excited to get his first opening-night starting pitching assignment for the team.

But forgive Hunter if he hopes his fourth season with the Capahas is a brief one.

Hunter had a strong performance to help the Capahas kick off their 2012 campaign Friday night with a 15-1 rout of the visiting Valmeyer (Ill.) Lakers. The game was stopped after 6 1/2 innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.

"He's a good pitcher, and I felt good about giving him the ball tonight," Capahas manager Jess Bolen said.

Hunter, who now is one of the veterans on a younger, new-look squad that features just eight returning players, said he felt good taking the ball.

Capahas third baseman Kody Campbell hits a three-run homer during the second inning Friday.

"I was looking forward to it, and it felt pretty good to come out opening night and get a win," Hunter said.

Hunter said with a laugh that he'll feel even better if Friday's start was the only one he makes for the Capahas this year. That would mean he realizes his goal of playing professional baseball.

Hunter, who recently completed a strong two-year career as one of Western Illinois University's top starters, has his sights set on the amateur draft that will be held Monday through Wednesday.

Hunter, a strapping right-hander who ranked second in NCAA Division I in strikeouts per nine innings with an average of 12.55 this season -- said the Reds have shown the most interest in him.

"I'm waiting on the draft, see how that goes," said Hunter, a graduate of Senath-Hornersville (Mo.) High School who pitched two years at Mineral Area College before going to Western Illinois. "Hopefully I'm gone after the draft."

If Friday's start was Hunter's last one, then it was a good one. He allowed four hits while striking out eight and walking three over six innings.

"Pretty much my fastball, curve and change, they were all working," Hunter said. "I felt good."

Hunter, also among the Capahas' better hitters although he did not receive any at-bats at Western Illinois, added a two-run double and scored twice Friday.

It was part of a 12-hit attack that included a home run and three doubles. Plaza Tire also took advantage of five Valmeyer errors.

"It shocked me a little bit that we came out and hit the ball like that," said Bolen, who is in his 46th season as the Capahas' manager. "Not that we don't have good hitters in the lineup, but we really swung the bats well."

Cole Bieser, one of 14 first-year Capahas players, went 3 for 3 and drew a walk in his other plate appearance. He scored two runs and drove in one.

"It was a pretty good start, what you always try to do," said Bieser, a center fielder who recently completed his sophomore season at Southeast Missouri State.

Bieser played the past two summers in the Prospect League, a collegiate league primarily featuring teams in the Midwest. This year the native of Ste. Genevieve, Mo., elected to stay closer to home.

"I have an internship, and I decided to stay local," Bieser said.

Bieser had two hits during the Capahas' seven-run first inning that featured five hits, three errors, three walks and a hit batter.

Rookie Clayton Gibbons had an RBI double in the opening inning, and veteran shortstop Jordan Kimball, who played at Arkansas State, added a two-RBI single.

"It was a fun first game, to get off to a good lead," Bieser said.

Veteran Kody Campbell, an Oran High School graduate who recently completed his Southeast career, had the big blow during the Capahas' six-run second inning -- a three-run homer. Hunter added a two-RBI double in the frame.

Dylan Drury, who is in his second year with the Capahas, matched Bieser by going 3 for 3. The Notre Dame Regional High School graduate doubled and scored three runs.

Kimball went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.

Valmeyer scored its lone run in the second inning. Derek Gibson, who recently completed an all-conference sophomore season at Southeast, doubled, went to third on a ground out and came in on a wild pitch.

Rookie Kyle Marshall pitched the final inning for the Capahas. He allowed one hit, struck out one and walked one.

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WP -- Dustin Hunter. LP -- Cole Goldschmidt. HR -- Kody Campbell (C). 2B -- Marshall Villandingham (V), Derek Gibson (V), Hunter (C), Dylan Drury (C), Clayton Gibbons (C). Multiple hits -- Valmeyer: Villandingham 2-4. Capahas: Drury 3-3, Cole Bieser 3-3, Jordan Kimball 2-3. Records -- Capahas 1-0, Valmeyer 3-2.

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