Cougars score early and often in 11-1 victory over Saint Stephen’s

SARASOTA


For the Cardinal Mooney baseball team, it is about keeping it simple.


The Cougars used the strategy to notch their seventh straight victory to open the season, an 11-1 decision over Saint Stephen’s in a game stopped after 4 innings because of the 10-run mercy rule on a beautiful Thursday afternoon at Steve Christie Field.


“We’re playing really good baseball, doing the fundamentals right and throwing strikes, defending well, timely hitting and it’s worked,” Cardinal Mooney coach Greg Mulhollen said.


It starts on the mound.


Making his first start of the season, right-hander Todd Velotta worked the first three innings, giving up three hits and a run with two strikeouts and no walks.


Normally the third baseman, Velotta settled down after giving up all three hits and the run in the first inning by retiring the final seven hitters he faced.


“We got him some runs early, took the pressure off him so he could settle in,” Mulhollen said.


Aidan Troy, who served as the designated hitter, worked the fourth with a strikeout. Chase Palmer survived a hit by pitch to his first batter and retired the next three, two on strikeouts.


“We’ve really done a good job on the mound,” Mulhollen said. “The pitchers are throwing two or three pitches for strikes with command, and we’re getting ahead of hitters.”


Cardinal Mooney has allowed four runs this season.


“Nothing special,” Mulhollen said. “The pitchers are doing what they are supposed to do.”


The hitters also have done their share lately. After scoring three runs in the first two games, the Cougars have lit up the scoreboard for 46 in the past five.


They answered the Falcons’ run in the first inning with three runs on four hits, as six straight hitters reached base. Caden Chamberlain and Velotta knocked in runs while a third scored on a passed ball.


The Cougars also put up crooked numbers in the second and third innings, scoring four runs in each. Chamberlain, who went 3-for-4 and knocked in four runs, had a two-run double and run-scoring double. Velotta added an RBI double. Luke Holman, reserve Trey Carroll and Troy, who went 2-for-2, also plated runs. Jake Jackson also had two hits in two trips and scored three times.


“We had some extra base hits today. Some balls found the gaps,” Mulhollen said. “With our pitching staff, we don’t need to score a lot.”


After graduating eight seniors, Saint Stephen’s (1-3) has had a rough start to the season.


Junior Brock Soletti singled, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a hit by junior Peter Balos to get the Falcons on the board early.


Soletti, who normally hits 90 mph on the radar gun, according to Saint Stephen’s coach Mike Verrill did not come close to that velocity Thursday and Cardinal Mooney made him pay.


“That compounds things,” Verrill said. “When you don’t throw hard against this team, they’re gonna hit the ball over your head.”


Verrill and his staff have spent the early part of the season teaching the young Falcons how to play and compete on the varsity level.


“We’ve got some good players,” said Verrill, who has one senior in Wyatt Sevin. “Practices are like a clinic every day. They’re young. Some of them haven’t learned how to battle. It’ll come.”


Class 3A Cardinal Mooney is expecting a battle at 4 p.m. Friday when Class 6A Palmetto (3-3) comes to Steve Christie Field.


“We’ve got a big game tomorrow with Palmetto,” Mulhollen said. “They’re a really good team. We’ll throw our horses at them and go at it.”


That was one of the reasons Mulhollen used three pitchers who have not seen a lot of work this season during a week the Cougars play three games.


“That was our plan coming in,” he said. “We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s game. Palmetto is a great test for us.”


Cardinal Mooney must continue what has worked for it thus far.


“Honestly, it’s about throwing strikes at this level, keeping the hitters off balance and playing good defense,” Mulhollen said. “It’s a good group of boys. It’s fun to watch them play.”