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Baseball | Chicago Christian kicks off Brandon Hickey era with win over Bremen

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Brandon Hickey is optimistic about his first season as head coach of the Chicago Christian baseball team.

The Knights struggled to an 11-18-1 record last year, when Hickey was an assistant. But he saw some things to be excited about.

“We saw we had a lot of talent last year with these guys, and now that I’ve taken over as the head coach I wanted to try to allow them to understand what kind of talent they do have,” Hickey said. “I feel like we had a lot of untapped potential and now we’re just trying to put that out here on the field.

“As we get out here more with the weather getting a bit better, I think you’ll see how much these guys have been able to adjust and learn day by day.”

The Hickey era got off to a fine start Monday as the host Knights beat Bremen 5-2 in their season opener.

Sophomore shortstop Christian Flutman went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs, while sophomore left fielder Rafe Slager finished 2-for-4 with a two-run single and a run for the Knights (1-0).

Senior Matt Stevens set the tone with a strong start on the mound. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while striking out six and walking five.

“For his first start, Matt was a lot better with his command than expected,” Hickey said. “He was able to really battle and work out of some tough situations. Him overcoming that adversity is big for the young guys to see.”

Connor Schaafsma pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the Knights without allowing a run to earn the victory.

Flutman and Slager, meanwhile, provided the hot bats on a cold day when offense was tough to come by early.

Flutman, who last fall was the starting quarterback for the Knights’ varsity football team as a sophomore, led off the fifth inning with a double and eventually scored on a wild pitch to give the Knights a 2-1 lead.

After Bremen (0-2) tied the game in the sixth, Flutman came up in a big spot in the bottom of the frame. With runners on first and second and two outs, he looped a base hit into left field to drive in the go-ahead run.

“He came with the slider and I got under it but still barreled it and got a run in,” Flutman said. “It felt really good.”

After Flutman delivered out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup, the Knights’ leadoff hitter, Slager, ripped a two-run single up the middle to make it 5-2.

“It felt good,” Slager said. “I was just trying to get the ball in play, move the runners along and try to get another run in and it worked out.”

Slager went 2-for-4, also singling in the third and scoring on an error.

After the game, veteran Bremen coach Mike Cline gave Hickey a game ball to congratulate him on his first win. Cline said he expects Hickey to have many more.

“That was nice of him,” Hickey said. “I definitely have to keep that one.”

Hickey is excited about his first team.

“We’ve got a great attitude overall,” he said. “These guys are ready to play every day. We’ve even given them the opportunity to have a couple days off and they’ve told us they want to come work. They understand that we have a job to do and that’s to show how much better we are than we were last year.”

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