In his first start, Chris Mooney looked like he was in midseason form.
Mooney struck out 12 batters in seven dominating innings as the Houston Tigers opened the 2010 season Tuesday with a 4-0 shutout of Mountain Grove in the opening round of the SCA Tournament.
The Tigers (1-0) played Salem on Wednesday in the semifinals. The championship is Friday.
Houston coach Brent Hall said in the preseason that he considered Mooney and Kyle Poynter his two No. 1 pitchers. Mooney certainly played the role of ace in his first appearance of the season.
Relying mostly on his fastball early and mixing in offspeed pitches late, Mooney scattered six hits in the complete-game victory. He walked just one batter while recording 12 of the Panthers’ 21 outs via strikeout.
“That’s what Chris is capable of. That’s really what we expect out of him,” Hall said. “He came out and located the ball really well.”
Lucas Cooperman, Mooney and Poynter had two hits apiece for Houston. Poynter, Eli Smith and Ty Foster each had run-scoring singles.
Rain forced the game to be delayed one day and eventually move from Mountain Grove to Houston. The Tigers were the visiting team on their home field.
There were several new sights in the season opener. A banner in right field pays tribute to David Foster, who was killed last May in an automobile accident following his senior season with the Tigers. Houston moved its dugout to first base — Hall said it made sense to be closer to the new locker room. The players wore wristbands and received numbers from Hall when he called plays instead of the old-fashioned hand signals.
“Sometimes kids don’t see my signals real well. If they hear me say it and look on a wristband, it connects with them a little better and it speeds up the game,” Hall said. “For the first game, I liked it.”
Mooney scored the game’s first run in the top of the first inning when he walked and trotted home on Smith’s two-out single.
Cooperman reached on an error in the third and scored on the first of Poynter’s two singles.
Foster singled home Smith in the sixth and later scored on a balk.
Mooney needed just 91 pitches to shut out Mountain Grove. He struck out seven of the 10 batters he faced during a stretch in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and didn’t allow a baserunner to reach second until the bottom of the seventh.
“The first inning is usually his problem, and he breezed right through it,” Hall said. “Being able to locate his fastball was the main thing today.”