SUNBURY – It’s been tough treading for the Big Walnut baseball team. But if history has shown anything, the Golden Eagles’ best is yet to come.
Sophomore left-hander Drew Beckner tossed six shutout innings and CJ Rockwell drove in two runs to lead BW to a 5-0 win over Newark in OCC-Capital play Monday.
It was Beckner’s first start of the season after a broken finger on his glove hand kept him out of action for almost a month.
“When we were down in Myrtle Beach, we were taking (batting practice) and I just caught one in the wrong spot and it broke my finger,” he said.
He maintained a throwing program despite his inability to catch and finally got into a game Apr. 29. He threw two flawless innings of relief and struck out four against Groveport.
“This is his third outing and we wanted to give him a shot in a starting role,” BW coach Jack Schone said. “Obviously, he did really well.”
He picked up right where he left off Monday against Newark, setting down the first seven batters he faced before a walk.
“Getting back tonight – it just felt really good,” Beckner said. “The first inning – getting that first out – it felt good. I got it out of the way.”
Newark was held without a hit until Jake Sherman led off the fourth inning with a single. An error moved him to second, but Viktor Giordano and Matt Evans turned an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. It was one of just two times the Wildcats had a runner in scoring position.
Beckner held Newark to two hits and three walks and struck out six over six innings.
“Getting ahead (of hitters) really helped,” Beckner said. “Once I got ahead, my curveball was really (working) well. I didn’t know that I’d (go this deep) my first (start). But I had the confidence that I was going to go out there and dominate.”
Forgive Schone if his heart rate increased in that final inning. The Eagles have given up late leads quite a few times this season.
“Execution has been the story for us,” he said. “We get a lead in that sixth or seventh inning and we make one mistake and it leads to another mistake. In our first seven or eight games we lost five of those games by one run and, in four of those games, we were ahead into that sixth or seventh inning.”
Carson Becker didn’t need his defense in the seventh. He struck out the side around a walk to preserve the win.
“Tonight was the same thing,” Schone said. “We were up 5-0 on Newark there and ended up getting beaten 6-5. So, it was getting past that mental block. We’re better than what we’ve shown and tonight was a big win for a lot of reasons.”
Rockwell hit a sacrifice fly to score Giordano, who opened the game with a walk, to give BW a 1-0 lead in the first.
Rockwell drove in a second run on a double in the third and two runs scored on a Ryne Conley single to push the lead to 4-0.
Evans hit a one-out triple and scored on Jacob Krous’ single in the sixth inning to account for the final margin.
“We’re trying to get that momentum back,” Schone said. “We don’t have an extraordinary record, but the kids have stuck together and that’s what matters.
Schone hopes the win will jump-start a team that he knows is capable of making a post-season run. If anything, the lack of an OCC-Capital title is a good omen.
The Eagles won three straight district championships and a regional title (2015 to 2017) without winning the league.
“We’ve never really been in the league hunt (other than last year),” Schone said. “But we’ve always known that we’re good enough to play with anybody.”
Logan Swonger went the distance for the Wildcats (4-16, 3-9). He allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits and three walks and struck out six. Justin Snodgrass collected Newark’s only other hit.
Next up, BW continues league play with a trip to New Albany today. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.
“We know what we got in front of us,” Schone said. “The rest of the week is not going to be easy. We’re using this week to try to gain some confidence and today was the first step.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.