Blake Doyle

(Shenandoah) -- The first game of the 2020 season was also the best game of Blake Doyle's pitching career and it resulted in a 1-0 win for Shenandoah over Clarinda in a Hawkeye Ten Conference battle heard on KMA 960 Monday night.

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"It feels great to get a win under our belt and just get at it," Doyle said.

"He just got better as the game went on," Coach Brett Roberts said. "He just really showed a lot of mental toughness. I'm really proud of him."

With a large crowd in attendance and social distancing guidelines in place, the Cardinals and Mustangs put on a game made for pitching enthusiasts. 

Doyle tossed 6 1/3 innings for the Mustangs, striking out seven batters on just one hit and three walks, but his  pitching masterpiece was complemented by Clarinda's duo of Jakob Childs and Wyatt Schmidt. Childs started on the bump for the Cardinals and tossed three innings, striking out six and allowing just one run and four hits. Schmidt relieved Childs in the fourth inning and struck out eight batters and threw three shutout innings, but it wasn't enough. 

Shenandoah managed two hits in the first inning, but couldn't score. Clarinda stranded a runner at second in the second inning and Shen went down in order to end the inning. Clarinda left runners at first and second in the third to keep the game scoreless. Shenandoah opened the bottom of the third with Brody Owen drawing a walk. Braden Knight eventually scored Owen on a sacrifice fly but Shen left the bases loaded in the third. 

Clarinda got their only hit of the game in the fourth inning with a Logan Green single. Doyle then retired 10 consecutive batters before being relieved by Nick Mather -- who led the Mustangs to the final two outs and the victory. Childs and Schmidt also kept Shenandoah's offense at bay from the fourth inning on -- retiring the final 11 batters of the game, but couldn't get any run support because of a stingy Shenandoah defense.

"It's what I expect from this defense," Roberts said. "We're a really solid defense that can make plays. I think we're really good in the infield we got a lot of speed in the outfield to cover some ground and we have a lot of experience. If our pitchers can throw to the bats, let the defense get some outs, I think we're going to be a pretty decent ball team."

The victory for Shenandoah gives them some confidence towards something they didn't much of last year -- win close games. Roberts says he hopes his team can use this win as a learning experience

"I think we learned a lot," Roberts said. "We learned we can win close games, which we did not do a lot last year. We learned we can win close games and we learned we can worked on our hitting. I think we learned that we really love the sport of baseball and are happy to be playing it, too."

Shenandoah (1-0, 1-0) will be back in action tomorrow at Red Oak. Clarinda (0-1, 0-1) will take on Southwest Valley Wednesday in a non-conference contest. The complete interviews with Doyle and Coach Roberts can be viewed below.