DELAWARE – Taking a page out of the analytics book, Delaware Hayes baseball coach Ryan Montgomery decided to bring his ace out of the bullpen for the Pacers’ game against Thomas Worthington Wednesday.
It paid off as Jacob Molina tossed four scoreless innings before giving way to Zach Price, who struck out six over the final three innings to help Hayes beat Thomas Worthington 4-1 in OCC-Cardinal play at Fouts-Wood Field.
“Where we’ve struggled this year is finishing games,” Montgomery said. “Zach’s a guy that’s a senior and is proven on the mound. I know he has the stuff … I want him out there in the seventh because I know (he has) composure.”
Molina gave up just a hit and three walks and struck out two over the front four innings to pick up the win. He added a pair of hits and scored twice at the plate as well.
“I felt really loose today,” Molina said. “I tend to struggle with a tight arm. But today, with the warm air – my arm felt really loose.”
Molina, a junior, has started in the past. But he’s also accustomed to coming out of the bullpen.
“I was really proud of Jacob,” Montgomery said. “He threw well against Darby last week in the same type of appearance. But he grew from it.”
“Typically, I come out of the pen to mix up speeds,” he said. “But we went slow to start and Zach came in and blew them away over the last three.”
His first hit – a liner to left – led to the only runs the Pacers would need. Drew Williams smacked a 2-run home run over the wall in left to give Hayes a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Williams also reached base with a walk.
“One thing he’s been constantly working at is his hitting,” Montgomery said. “He has tremendous range and tremendous speed (defensively). He’s a sophomore and played JV last year. It took him time to adjust to varsity pitching.”
“I thought it was in the fence,” Williams said. “I was gonna go for a double and then I just saw it carry.”
The long ball was Williams’ first as a varsity player and he did it out of the nine-hole.
“My biggest problem was that when I’d get loaded – I’d move my head or move my shoulders – which would throw me off,” Williams said. “I sat still and I hit through the ball. It was a huge momentum boost.”
“We really talked approach with him,” Montgomery said. “When he got up there … his head was still and he drove it. He was really good and I was really happy for him.”
Molina led off the fourth inning with his second hit of the game – a liner to center – and scored when Alex Kelly worked a bases-loaded walk.
“I’m just trying to attack fastballs,” Molina said. “It’s something we’ve preached as a team over the last couple of weeks. We started slow on offense, but we’re starting to heat up because we’re attacking fastballs.”
“I think he took his confidence on the mound to the plate,” Montgomery said. “He hit some good balls into center and into left. He’s really emerging as a leader for us.”
Price added a sacrifice fly to give the Pacers a 4-0 lead.
Caden Kirker worked the complete six for the Cardinals. He allowed four runs, two earned, on six hits, three walks and hit a batter. He struck out four, but was saddled with the loss.
Kirker also led Thomas with two hits.
Josh Rock singled to start the seventh and moved to second on a throwing error. He moved to third on a ground out and scored the Cardinals’ only run on a wild pitch.
Thomas’ rally continued as Chase Arrigo was hit by a pitch and Kirker singled – each with one out. But Price struck out the final two batters to preserve the win.
He allowed three hits and a hit-batter over the final three innings to earn the save for Hayes.
Hayes is off until Saturday when it travels to Central Crossing for a doubleheader in non-league play. First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 11 a.m.