When the weather turns cold, the advantage in baseball turns in favor of the pitcher.
And that’s just the way Justin Atchison likes it, because he knows while everyone else is struggling to stay warm, he barely notices.
Atchison took full benefit of the cold temperature and blustery wind on Thursday and frustrated Nixa hitters in a 10-2 Central Ozark Conference win.
“It’s definitely an advantage to be a pitcher in cold weather like this,” said Atchison, Willard’s starting pitcher. “On a night like this, with temperatures in the upper 40s, you can wear long sleeves and not sweat and you can go back to the dugout and put on a sweatshirt and not be cold.
“This is the type of weather that I prefer to pitch in. Now, being in the field with this wind, that’s brutal.”
Holding a 5-2 lead going into the bottom half of the sixth inning, Willard scored five runs on five hits and four walks to blow the game open.
Willard (8-5, 1-1) got a pair of RBIs from junior Luke Latham along with RBIs from sophomore Patrick Latham and senior Seth Sherertz in the five-run sixth inning.
Eight of Willard’s nine starters got at least one hit in the victory as the Tigers outhit Nixa 12-5.
“It was a great team win and everybody contributed,” Willard coach Scott McGee said. “This is as complete of a game as we have played and if we can continue to play like this, then we’re going to be a pretty tough opponent over the next month.”
In the bottom of the first inning, Nixa’s defense committed three errors and staked Willard to a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers got RBIs from Luke Latham and freshman Kyle Smith during the rally.
“Our defense has been pretty good and three errors in the first inning is pretty uncharacteristic for us,” Nixa coach Howard Greenwood said.
“Basically, we weren’t ready to play to today.”
Nixa (4-6, 0-2) cut the lead to 3-1 in the top of the third inning with an RBI double from senior JD Payne that scored junior Kyle Robillard from first. Payne had two hits to lead Nixa.
Willard added to its lead with a run in the fourth inning, when junior Keaton Presley’s double plated sophomore Blake Hobbs, to make it 4-1.
After Nixa pushed a run across in the top of the fifth, Luke Latham doubled and scored on a single by Hobbs in the fifth inning for a 5-2 Willard lead, setting the stage for the Tigers’ big sixth inning.
Atchison improved to 3-0 with the complete-game victory.
“As a closer last year, I could come in and throw as hard as I could for 30 pitches,” Atchison said. “As a starter, I have to really command my pitches and dominate the outer third of the plate.
“It was nice having all my pitches working tonight.”