SYRACUSE — NorthWood coach A.J. Risedorph took a gamble on his pitching at his team’s Wawasee Sectional-opener with West Noble Friday.
With three games within a four-day span at the tourney, Risedorph gave number three pitcher Cooper Davis the start. Davis kept a two-hitter going through five innings, and the Panthers collected 10 hits on the way to a 5-3 win over the Chargers, earning the right to advance opposite Tippecanoe Valley Saturday.
“We roll out Cooper Davis, who is really our number three. Because of this Friday game, pitch count rules, we knew if we threw one today they would not be available for Monday. I told these guys when I saw the draw and the dates ‘We’re playing to win a championship, not to get there,’” explained Risedorph. “Cooper was going to have to pitch at some point, and he did a phenomenal job. And our ability offensively to jump out early allows him to be relaxed and not have much pressure on him. He pitched a great game.”
NorthWood put Davis at ease with a three-run top of the first, highlighted by a two-run double from Jaden Miller — the first of two two-baggers by Miller at the game — and an RBI single from Alec Holcomb. The Panthers scratched out another run in the fourth before West Noble answered back with a run in the bottom half of the inning. The Chargers began getting to Davis in the sixth helped by a pair of infield errors, plating two runs on an RBI single from Dalton Pinkerton and a sacrifice fly from Jorge Villanueva, to cut their deficit to 4-3. Holcomb came in to relieve Davis, and NorthWood added an insurance run in the seventh on Jack Wysong’s two-out RBI double to left to give the Panthers the win.
“That’s kind of been our motto, really, this year, and it’s kind of what we saw tonight. During our conference season, we had 10 of 14 games decided by one run. So our guys were used to that, and they knew that just because we had a decent lead, it wasn’t going to be over. We knew we had to play seven innings,” Risedorph said.
Miller finished 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs, and Holcomb went 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and three stolen bases to lead the Panthers offensively.
“It might be shocking, but we basically practiced every day this week inside, so it felt like it was kind of our two-week practice window during the winter when we couldn’t be outside anyway. So guys like Jaden Miller did a phenomenal job of dedicating himself to the batting tunnel and just reworking his swing,” Risedorph said. “We tweaked a few things, and you saw it pay off today. Holcomb is the same way. It allowed us to kind of reset from our conference season and kind of start over new.”
Davis got the win giving up three runs, none earned, off two hits and a walk with three strikeouts through 5 1/3 innings. Holcomb finished it of, surrendering one hit for no runs with three strikeouts.
Villanueva took the loss, surrendering seven hits and five walks with six strikeouts for four earned runs.