Cats’ bats awaken

One day made a world of difference for the Alpena baseball team.

Tim Atkinson hit two home runs and freshman Nick Skiba pitched a complete game to earn his first varsity win as the Wildcats topped Algonac 12-2 in five innings on Friday on the first day of the MacKenzie Invitational.

A day after they fizzled after a fast start against Petoskey, the Wildcats (9-2) pounded out 10 hits against Muskrats and got off to a fast start again with a four-run first inning.

“We hit more balls hard in the first inning than we did all day yesterday. Timmy had the two big bombs there,” Alpena coach Phil Schultz said. “It was a different team. They (Alpena) just came to play, I don’t know what it was, but I’m glad they showed up.”

Atkinson, who was Alpena’s third batter in the first inning, drove an offering from J.P. DeBoyer over the right field fence for a two-run home run.

He finished 3-for-3 with five RBIs for the game and has three home runs in his last six games.

Skiba added an RBI single and Dylan Glennie followed him with an RBI double, giving Alpena a 4-0 lead it built on from there.

After being told just before the game that he was the starter, Skiba scattered just four hits, gave up two runs, walked none and hit one batter.

“It’s exciting. I was pleased with it,” Skiba said of his performance. “Yesterday we came out and won the first one and then got quiet and today we woke up the bats a little bit.”

He ran into trouble just once, after Algonac got runners on first and second with no outs in the four inning. The threat was neutralized when the next three batters were retired, the last one on a dive grab by Jay Dutcher in left field. Alpena’s defense backed up Skiba again in the final inning when Mitch Skiba prevented a pair of hits with solid stops at second base.

“We gave him his first start and he came through,” Schultz said. “He didn’t strike anybody out, but he threw strikes and we played defense and that’s the name of the game.”

With only a few varsity games under his belt, Nick is already proving to be a steady player for the Wildcats. On Thursday, he earned a save after two innings of relief and on Tuesday he had a game-winning RBI single.

He helped his cause on Friday with a pair of RBI singles and scored a run.

Mason Ruhlman had an RBI groundout for Algonac in the second inning and Shane Odzark doubled in DeBoyer in the fourth inning.

Skiba singled in Tyler Pintar in the third inning before Alpena put the game away for good with a seven-run fourth inning. The Wildcats took advantage of six walks and a hit batter during an inning where they sent 12 batters to the plate.

After Dutcher and Andy Marwede walked, Atkinson went yard again, hitting a three-run shot in to right field to give Alpena an 8-0 lead. Glennie later added a two-run single and before the end of the inning, two more runs scored on passed balls.

DeBoyer took the loss for Algonac and was relieved by Cody John after one inning.

Alpena will play two games today with the first starting at 10:30 a.m. against Sault Ste. Marie. The Wildcats will play Grosse Pointe North in their second game. Schultz said JV call-up Chris Modrzynski will pitch the opener and Mitch Skiba will likely pitch against North.