The Big Walnut baseball team used a combination of quality pitching, hustle and opportunity to sweep visiting Amherst Steele and give new coach Jack Schone his first two victories as a coach Saturday in Sunbury.
Both squads are coming off district championships last season. The two games featured a bevy of talent, including four starting pitchers who have committed to play baseball at the Division I level in college.
“It was a great day … the team stayed in it and had some timely hits,” Schone said. “They have a really good pitching staff, so I’m really pleased with the way things ended up for sure.”
Connor Gerren walked and Noah Sprowls singled to open the BW first. Gerren scored on an error and Sprowls followed on a balk to give the Golden Eagles (2-0) all they needed off Steele’s Evan Shawver (Nebraska commit) in a 2-1 victory in the early game.
Big Walnut’s Austin Becker (Vanderbilt commit) struck out five over 2.2 innings and 51 pitches. Sprowls struck out seven and held the Comets (0-2) to an unearned run over 3.1 innings before Austin Krinn closed it out for the save.
“We’ve got him (Becker) on an innings (limit), so we’re watching him … actually, we’re watching everyone,” Schone said. “Especially early on … the first time out. We don’t want any sore arms. The idea is to take it easy. We have players that can come behind them.”
Shawver settled in to go five allowing just the two runs on three hits and a couple of walks and seven strikeouts.
Gerren sparked BW’s offense with three hits, including the one that drove in the go-ahead run in a 4-1 victory in the second game.
“He’s our leadoff and we expect him to get on any way he can, especially with those two headfirst slides. You’re not supposed to do that,” Schone said with a chuckle. “You’re supposed to run through the bag.”
Xavier Moore (Ohio State signee) got through the BW order the first time through without allowing a hit.
“They have some really great talent,” Gerren said. “I just tried to go out and get really good at-bats. I didn’t focus on getting hits – I just wanted them to go deep in the count. It just so happened that I had the hustle plays and then the bunt that I beat out.”
Gerren broke that up by beating out a slow roller to third with a headfirst slide. He used a headfirst slide to beat out a chopper to short to drive in Cale Sherbourne, who had singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball.
“It doesn’t matter how much skill you have, how much talent you have … it’s all hustle,” Gerren said. “I wanted to do that. I knew what I was going to do the minute I left the box. I knew we needed it because we were tied at the time. It was a good hustle play.”
BW added runs on an error and fielder’s interference in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively.
Moore allowed two runs on four hits and four walks with five strikeouts over four innings in the loss. He had a hit in each game and drove in Steele’s only run in the second game.
Meanwhile, Henry von Hollen (Wright State commit) allowed one unearned run and struck out six over five innings. Colton Lee pitched two innings and struck out the side in the seventh to earn the save.
Parker Imertreijs also had three hits for Big Walnut in the second game and drove in a run in the first.
Mark Harris led the Comets with three hits in the second game and Cameron Karnik paced them with two in the first.
BW’s next contest hits a little close to home. Schone matches wits with his brother Donald Schone, who skippers Watkins Memorial, Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Sunbury.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.