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Culver splits with La Pine to get season underway

by: JEFF WILSON/THE PIONEER - Culver's Joe Daugherty slides safely into third base during the Bulldogs' season opening baseball series against La Pine last week. Daugherty had three extra-base hits in the two games.Nick Viggiano expected a lot of things out of his young Culver baseball team. But he never expected the start they gave him.

The Class 2A Bulldogs opened the season with 4A La Pine last week by not only getting one win, but nearly getting two. And to top it off, the Bulldogs recorded a no-hitter to get their season off to a great start.

“I was impressed with everything we did overall,” Viggiano, the Bulldogs’ first-year coach said. “We have some little things that we need to clean up, but we played well.”

Culver ended up splitting with La Pine, losing the first game 10-7, but bounced back to win the second one 12-1 in five innings behind a combined no-hitter from Adam Knepp and Mack Little.

Knepp threw four and two-thirds innings of hitless ball, striking out five while walking none. He allowed just three base runners.

Little got the final out of the game after Knepp was pulled after hitting his pitch count.

“I was surprised I pulled a no-hitter out of it,” Knepp said. “I didn’t feel like I was pitching any better than I usually do. I felt great.”

Viggiano said he never hesitated in pulling Knepp out of the game despite him needing just one out to finish off the game. He said there was no guarantee that Knepp would close it out and he'd rather have healthy arms later in the season than get a no-hitter in nonconference play.

"We have all of our pitchers on pitch counts," Viggiano said.

Viggiano said he expected Knepp to come out strong since he is the type of kid who plays to win every game and has added three inches and 30 pounds to his frame since last season.

"He has such a great attitude," Viggiano said. "He really pushes the team."

While Knepp was sharp in his first outing of the year, the Bulldogs as a team were pretty sharp at the plate.

Culver pounded out 17 hits, including four extra-base hits, and drew seven walks off of La Pine pitchers.

"I was surprised that we hit the ball as well as we did," Viggiano said. "We were good up and down the lineup. Even the bottom of the lineup hit well.

Joe Daugherty led the way, going 3-for-5 with two triples and double, His bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning of the second game really broke it open.

Wyatt Rufener had three hits in the series, while Knepp, Little and Grayson Barry all had a pair of singles.

The Bulldogs gained plenty of confidence from the series, but then they had some to begin with.

“We know we can beat anyone,” Knepp said. “I don’t think anyone was surprised we 10-runned them, we could have easily done that in the first game. We know we can win every game.”

With spring break being this week, Culver will have the opportunity to get some young guys extra work since many of the upperclassmen are out of town. Viggiano said he is excited about the kids who will be here during the week and looks forward to seeing what they can do.

The Bulldogs had their third game of the season canceled due to poor field conditions at Horizon Christian last week. Culver played host to Lakeview for a Tuesday doubleheader before opening up play in Class 2A/1A Special District 2 Monday at St. Paul.

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