It might be written on a piece of paper, or etched in permanent marker on a pair of cleats or printed on T-shirts. It’s even even become the Todd Beamer baseball calling card on Twitter. No matter the form, the initials “A.I.O.” is what Titans baseball is all about in 2017.
The acronym stands for Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. It is the Titans’ go-to mantra after their tough 2016 season. In the first game of the new season Friday against the Curtis Vikings, Beamer had to do all three.
The pitching rotation in game one, led by the Titans’ No. 1 starter Cameron Naden, of Naden, Tommy Davis, Ayden Adams and Nate Clow, combined for an Opening Day no-hitter, leading Beamer to a 2-0 win over Curtis at Curtis High School.
“I’m very excited about this year’s pitching staff,” Beamer coach Shane Elliott said prior to the game. “Our No. 1 ace (Naden) committed to Edmunds Community College. He’s working on getting his velocity up.”
Naden was forced to adapt to the new season as he walked the Curtis (0-1) leadoff man after being ahead in the count.
The senior responded right away, however.
A solid curve ball got him a groundout for the first out, and back-to-back strikeouts got Naden through the first inning of his senior season.
“It was just about going out there and having fun,” Naden said of his first start. “It’s my senior season. I made a couple mistakes here and there, but it’s fine. We got it done.”
The Titans improvised by way of using four of their best pitchers to get their first win. Naden was finished after three innings of shutout baseball. He struck out six while giving up two walks to earn his first win of the season, while not allowing a runner to go beyond first base.
Naden was followed by Davis and Adams. Davis threw two innings of shutout baseball, allowing no walks and two strikeouts.
Beamer was forced to overcome its lack of production at the plate. It left three men on base, and all three were in scoring position. The Titans had an opportunity to take the lead in the second inning after Colin Floyd singled and reached second on a pass ball, but Tate Wallet grounded out to third to end the inning.
The Titans had runners on first and third in the third inning with just one out, but strikeouts by Jayshayn Ware and Jared Thompson brought the potential rally to an end.
“We did leave one too many runners out on base, but we had several guys taking their first varsity at-bats, so I attribute that to the first-game jitters a little bit,” Elliott said. “But that aside, we had a lot of quality at-bats and found a way to get it done.”
Wallet came through in the bottom of the fourth inning to get the job done for the Titans.
Clow led the inning off with a double down the right field line, with the ball nearly touching the chalk. He advanced to third on a pass ball, and Wallet earned the RBI on a single to center field.
The Titans added the second run after pinch runner Jordan Taylor scored on a third-base throwing error.
“We hit the ball hard,” Elliott said. “It was timely hitting by Tate Wallet there.”
Adams took the ball for the Titans in the sixth, and two walks put runners on the corners with just one out, and it was Elliott’s first opportunity to see how his setup man overcame trouble in the new year.
The junior didn’t disappoint. A grounder to third and a strikeout got Adams and Beamer out of its most troubling inning.
Clow shut the door in the seventh on a deep fly ball out to left field, a strikeout and ground out.
When the team found out the pitching staff combined for a no-hitter after the game, they ran, loudly, and mobbed the four pitchers responsible with hugs and cheers.
“We have a lot of raw talent,” Naden said. “If we just continue to work, and keep focused, we could be pretty good. You know, A.I.O., that’s what we do as a team. That’s who we are.”