Kolin Brace overshadowed his hard-throwing counterpart Trenton Young on Saturday, and the Sacred Heart Gremlins beat Pilot Grove 6-0 in the first game of a round robin at Centennial Park.
In other games, Pilot Grove beat Versailles 11-1 in six innings, and the Gremlins beat Versailles 9-0.
With a fastball clocked in the 80s, Young struggled, allowing five runs — four earned — on four hits with four walks and six strikeouts in 3 1-3 innings. Over that stretch, the right-hander threw 93 pitches.
“Sacred Heart did a really good job of having some long at-bats against him,” Pilot Grove coach Clint Poulsen said. “We’re still early in the season, and he’s not used to throwing that much again yet. Part of it today was getting him stretched out.”
Sacred Heart coach Jaric Reid called Young the best pitcher his team has faced this season.
“I thought he was getting squeezed a lit bit by the umpires, which helped us out a little bit,” Reid said. “We were aggressive early in the count, but we were just missing our pitches. Eventually, we started to square a couple up, and we started getting to him. (We) got a couple of walks, and his pitch count was up. We got him out of the game in the fourth inning. That’s what you’ve got to do against a good pitcher — get him out early and get into that bullpen a little bit.”
Meanwhile, Brace needed only 66 pitches in the seven-inning shutout. He yielded six hits with no walks or strikeouts.
Brace wasn’t surprised about the lack of strikeouts.
“I don’t throw that hard, so it’s hard to strike out people,” Brace said. “They’re a good hitting team.”
Reid said, “Kolin was hitting his spots well. When you do that as a pitcher, it’s tough (for a hitter) to get a good swing on a pitcher’s pitch. That’s what they were trying to do.”
The Gremlins (7-0) played error-free baseball behind him.
“We’ve got probably one of the best defenses in the state,” Reid said. “We’ve got three center fielders playing in the outfield. That’s a luxury. I love our defense. We’ve got complete confidence in them. That’s what we tell our pitchers, ‘you go up there, hit your spots and let your defense work for you.’ ”
Pilot Grove (4-2) threatened early, putting runners at first and second with one out in the first inning. However, Brace induced a double-play ball, and he did it again in the second to escape trouble.
The Tigers threatened in the fifth and sixth innings. After Brace hit back-to-back batters with one out in the fifth, he retired the next two on fly-ball outs to left and center field.
Grant Felten, who was the only Pilot Grove player to have multiple hits — he went 2 for 3 — singled to right field to lead off the sixth but was cut down at second on a relay throw from second baseman Kohei Kodama to shortstop Caleb Tanguay.
“They made a couple of plays,” Poulsen said, “especially when the shortstop (Tanguay) makes an over-the-shoulder catch. (Before that) my three hitter (Felten) strokes the ball down the right-field line. They come up and hit the (cutoff man) and threw him out at second. They made all the plays. They were just better than us today. That’s for sure.”
After stranding a runner in each of the first two innings, the Gremlins erupted for five runs in the third.
Ninth-place batter Michael Hohne singled to right field and stole second. Jackson Smith singled, advancing Hohne to third. Ben Smeltzer, who went 2 for 4 with a run scored, drove him home with a sacrifice fly to left field. After a strikeout, a wild pitch and a walk, Chance Spangler drew a bases-loaded walk, driving in Smith. Garrett Strange followed with a two-run single, and another run scored on an error by the pitcher.
“In that inning, we just didn’t play very good baseball,” Poulsen said. “(We) booted the ball around and had a couple walks. All of a sudden they get a base hit here a base hit there (and) there are (five) runs on the board. We just kind of fell part that inning.”
Sacred Heart scored an insurance run in the sixth against relief pitcher Brady Rentel. Smeltzer hit a leadoff single and scored on Tanguay’s double to deep right-center field.
Sacred Heart 9, Versailles 0
Spangler’s pitching and Mason Kelchner’s offense lifted the Gremlins to a 9-0 victory Saturday at Centennial Park.
Spangler pitched a two-hit shutout with one walk and eight strikeouts in seven innings.
Kelchner went 3 for 3, including a double, with three RBIs, one walk and one run scored.
The Sacred Heart catcher doubled home Jackson Smith in the first, and Spangler’s ground out to shortstop gave the Gremlins a 2-0 lead.
Kelchner had a one-out RBI in the third as part of a four-run inning. Smith led off with a double and scored on an error by the third baseman. Smeltzer reached base on that same error and scored on Kelchner’s hit. Strange drove home two more runs with a single for a 6-0 lead.
Kelchner’s single to center field drove home the first of two runs in the fourth. Smeltzer and Tanguay each singled before Kelchner’s at-bat. Spangler’s ground out to shortstop drove in Tanguay, who went 2 for 4 with one run scored.
The Gremlins capped their scoring with one run in the fifth. Kodama led off with a single, moved to second on an error by the third baseman and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Smith.
Gavin Silkwood was charged with the loss, permitting nine runs — four earned — on 10 hits with one walk and six strikeouts in six innings. The Tigers committed five errors behind him.