SYRACUSE – A bobble and a throw were all that separated Whitko and Wawasee Tuesday on the baseball diamond. The two scenarios became the difference in a 3-1 Whitko win at Wawasee.
Whitko took a 1-0 lead into the fifth, only having a bases loaded walk by Zach Morris to its credit. Morris’ walk came after he battled back from an 0-2 count with two outs in the second inning.
In the fifth, the Wildcats put two men on to chase Warrior starter Blake Norris. Zach Hewitt would draw a walk to load the bases, and a slow grounder by Austin Hollowell to the shortstop was bobbled, allowing Landen Goff to trot home with the second run of the game.
The next play wasn’t from a pitch, but a pickoff attempt by Carter Woody, who decided to focus on Hewitt’s lead at second rather than keep tabs on Drew Bradford, who was inching down the third base line. Woody’s throw to second got Hewitt in a pickle long enough for the relay home to be late, Bradford getting in as the third run.
“With two outs and a runner at second that is getting a huge lead, it’s kind of like a bunt steal that we practice against,” said Wawasee head coach Brent Doty of the pickoff play. “Ideally you want to run at the guy and try and get the out before he goes. If other runner breaks for home, get that. It’s kind of a roll of the dice. You don’t want guys running halfway to third, and if they get a base hit, now it’s two runs instead of one. It’s one of those things you’re trying to get an out in a tight situation, and I thought they did a good job on the mound for us.”
Noted Whitko head coach Erik Hisner of the sequence in the fifth, “We took advantage of some of their mistakes. They walked in our first run and then had the special play there to get it to three runs, which was huge for us. That put a lot of pressure on them, and anytime we can send out Bradford, we feel good about a three-run lead.”
Wawasee plated its only tally of the game in the bottom of the fifth when Blaine Greer crushed a Bradford offering to the fence in center for a double. A throwing error and a wild pitch allowed Greer to score to cut the lead to 3-1. Jeremiah Bess would later walk and advance two bases on a wild pitch, but was stranded on third when Bradford got out of the jam with a strikeout.
Bradford wasn’t challenged the rest of the way, wrapping up the complete game with 13 strikeouts on a two-hitter with just one walk.
Norris took the tough luck loss, working 4.1 innings giving up just one hit, four walks and striking out seven, but was on the hook for all three runs despite being in the game for just one of the runs coming home on his watch. Woody had five strikeouts in his relief appearance.
“This week is a big week for us to get a rhythm going,” Hisner stated, whose club moves to 6-0 on the young season. “We have a very good Heritage team coming in Saturday, and Wawasee was the best team we’ve played thus far. This was a measuring stick game for us to tell our guys kind of where we are at as we get ready for conference play next Wednesday.”
Wawasee, which scored 45 runs in its first two wins, has lost two in a row at home after a tough 10-6 loss Monday to East Noble to fall to 2-2 overall.
“I expected the bats to quiet down a little bit,” Doty said. “I surely didn’t expect to score 20 every game. It would be nice, I would take it, obviously. We’ve seen some good pitching the last couple of days. (Bradford) was very good tonight. Good velocity, good curve ball, we were just off balance, he did a great job and you have to tip your cap to them.”
In the JV matchup in South Whitley, the Warriors rolled to a 14-1 win. Austin Baker went 2-for-2 and Sam Savage got the win on the hill.
Whitko visits Lakewood Park on Thursday while Wawasee hosts Columbia City, also Thursday afternoon.