Miller and Casini go deep to help LCSC and Picone win opener 9-2
LEWISTON, Idaho – Junior designated hitter Braxton Miller hit a pair of home runs while senior right-fielder Gino Casini went 3-for-4 with four RBI to help the Lewis-Clark State College baseball team kick off its season and era under new coach Gary Picone with a 9-2 victory over Concordia of Oregon in the opening day of the Red Lion Tournament at LCSC’s Harris Field.
Miller, who redshirted last season after battling testicular cancer, made his Warrior debut a memorable one. Hitting in the cleanup spot, the right-hander smacked a two-run home run in the third inning and then added a solo shot in the seventh, both to left field. He finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored.
Casini, who hit in the third spot, helped the LCSC bats get rolling right away when he singled in a run in the first inning and then smacked a three-run home run in the seventh when the Warriors broke the game open.
The combined 5-for-8 effort with seven RBI and four runs scored by Miller and Casini gave Picone the victory in his debut. Picone replaced Ed Cheff, who retired last fall after 34 years at the Warrior helm. Picone was a long-time assistant to Cheff and also is LCSC’s athletic director.
“Yeah, definitely it was different,” Picone said of his first game as head coach. “How it was different, I really don’t know but it was different. And it felt good.”
The Warriors had plenty to feel good about. Outside of a rough start by reliever Jorge Sanchez, the Warriors were in control from the start, jumping out to a 4-0 lead behind Miller and Casini, along with senior pitcher Cody Fassold.
The right-handed Fassold, who went 6-0 last season, picked up where he left off by allowing just three hits over his five innings of work. He also struck out three and walked three. In all 43 of his 73 pitches were for strikes.
Fassold was replaced by Sanchez in the top of the sixth and that’s when the Cavaliers of Portland picked up both of their runs. After Sanchez struck out the first batter he faced, Riley Tubbs singled to center and Sean Myrom followed with a two-run home run to left-center field. Sanchez then settled down and allowed only three hits over the next four innings and struck out six.
Warrior leadoff hitter Kevin Lovelace, who went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, set the table for the Warriors to take the early lead when he singled to open the bottom of the first. A ground out and a wild pitch helped him advance to third and Casini followed with his RBI single to right.
LCSC made it 3-0 in the bottom of the third when Casini smacked a two-out double to left-center field and Miller followed with his first home run.
“Braxton has good power and we were all excited for him,” Picone said. “I know it had to be special for him. He’s been through a tough year and deserved to have a great day.”
The Warriors made it 4-0 in the fourth when Jake Eccles had a one-out single to left and eventually scored on a double by Jason Hague to left-center field.
After the Cavaliers cut the margin to 4-2, the Warriors doubled their run total in the seventh. Hague started the rally when he was hit by a pitch and Lovelace followed with a single. After an out, Casini belted his home run to left field, and two pitches later, Miller followed with his blast.
“I thought Gino had good at bats all day,” Picone said.
The Warriors’ final run came in the eighth inning when Cody Garner reached base on an error with one out and was replaced by pinch-runner Michael Bush. After a ground out moved Bush to second, Lovelace dropped an RBI single down the left-field line.
Of LCSC’s 11 hits in the game, five went for extra bases.
“I enjoyed the win,” Picone said. “We were spotty today. We had some stretches where we put some good at-bats together and overall we played hard. I’m excited to get that one in.”
The four-team round-robin tournament, which runs through Sunday, has three games on the schedule for Friday. Concordia and College of Idaho kick off play at 10 a.m., followed by Corban and LCSC at 12:30 p.m. Corban and Concordia then wrap up play at 3 p.m.
Three more games are scheduled for Saturday and two more on Sunday.