DELAWARE – When Pleasant’s Robert Curren lined the first pitch of the game into center field, it was just a preview of what was to come.
The Spartans pounded out 19 hits en route to a 10-6 victory at Buckeye Valley in MOAC play Tuesday night.
Both coaches thought the game came down to their respective teams’ approach at the plate.
“Our demise tonight was rough at-bats,” BV coach Drew Kirby said. “Rough at-bats, mental mistakes and physical errors – you name it – we didn’t play a complete game of baseball today.”
Pleasant coach Brad Potts had his team hitting off a tee versus seeing live batting practice. He made the adjustment as a way to “get back to the fundamentals.”
“About four games ago, we didn’t even take a live pitch – we just hit it off the tee before the game,” he said. “We’ve kind of incorporated live hitting just focusing on hitting line drives off the tee. It’s really paid off for us.”
Curren and Owen Peters both singled in the first inning and scored an out later when Zane Dine lined a single to right. Braxton Reed followed with an RBI double to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead they never relinquished.
“We were hitting a lot of pop flies – even in batting practice,” Potts said. “We just wanted to control it, slow it down and really focus on hitting line drives.”
Jonathan Curren added an RBI single in the second and Dine another RBI single in the fourth inning before BV found its footing offensively.
The Barons scored three times in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to 5-3. Ben Atiyeh reached on an error with one out, Hunter Moffatt singled and Logan Adkins was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs.
Two runs scored when Mason Kurtz sent a roller up the middle that was cut off at short, but the throw to second was wide. Adkins scored from third on an errant pickoff throw to first.
But, every time BV rallied for some runs, Pleasant had an answer.
Bryce Lowry and Jonathan Curren each had RBI singles in the fifth to push the lead to 7-3.
Andy Anthony drove in a run on a squeeze bunt in the sixth inning after a couple of errors and a hit-batter had loaded the bases. But, pitcher Brennen Newell stranded the bases loaded with a strikeout after an intentional walk had loaded them again.
“We need to do a better job at the plate of not chasing off-speed pitches in certain counts and situations – getting back to who we are and what our philosophies are at the plate,” Kirby said.
Pleasant responded with three straight hits to open the seventh before a Dine walk drove in a run. Lane Russell added a two-run single with two outs.
BV rallied again with two outs in the bottom half. Moffatt was hit by a pitch and Adkins doubled to set up a Kurtz two-run single to account for the final margin.
Peters went a perfect 5-for-5 at the plate and scored three runs, Robert Curren added four hits and a couple of runs and Dine drove in four runs to lead the Spartans (7-7, 3-4) offensively.
Newell allowed two earned runs on six hits, four hit-batters and a couple of walks and struck out six to get the win for Pleasant.
Atiyeh went the front four innings and allowed five runs, four earned, on 11 hits and struck out five. He took the loss for the Barons (6-6, 2-3).
“Ben threw well tonight,” Kirby said. “He only threw seven balls. He threw 29 pitches in the first inning – that’s a little much. But you’re throwing to contact and we need guys to make plays behind him.”
Neither coach feels like their teams are out of the championship race yet with Clear Fork and Galion atop the standing with one loss apiece. BV handed the Colts their only loss and Pleasant knocked off the Tigers.
“I think we’ve got a very talented group of baseball players,” Kirby said. “It’s just putting it all together. We split with (Clear Fork), we split with Ontario last week and we’re looking to split with Pleasant when we see them again tomorrow.
“Ultimately – when you look at our league – it just comes down to pitching. I think three or four losses could win or tie a league title this year.”
“Every game in the league is going to be a grind,” Potts said. “Every game has been close for the most part. It’s hard to beat a team twice in this league. I know our kids still have that goal (of winning a championship) in mind. We’re just trying to get better every day and see where the chips fall.”
BV and Pleasant meet again today at 5 p.m. in Marion.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.