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PLYMOUTH â€” Plymouth Post 27 started off the 2012 season on a winning note as the Diamond Spyders swept visiting Highland Post 180 in a doubleheader at Bill Nixon Field Saturday, 8-1 and 5-2.
Post 27 got a pair of strong starts from returning pitchers James Hackworth and Sean Liedtky at the doubleheader as the former â€” a Tippecanoe Valley product â€” threw six shutout innings before a solo home run spoiled his shutout bid in the top of the seventh in the first game, and the latter â€” a graduate of John Glenn and current Manchester player â€” held Highland to just two hits for two runs pitching through six innings in the second game.
Lefty Hackworth's win was an 11-strikeout, one walk outing, while Liedtky fanned three with a pair of hit batsmen before fellow John Glenn player Tyler Niespodziany came in to close out the second game in the seventh, walking one while striking out the final two batters of the evening, leaving the tying run at the plate for the save.
"Not a better way to start it than to have two quality pitchers in Hackworth and Liedtky. They gave us great starts," said Post 27 head coach Tony Plothow. "Sean probably could've finished up, but it was his first outing in awhile, and we decided to limit his pitches. He did a great job. He limited them to two hits. Then Hackworth the first game, what can you say? I think he gave up one walk there in the seventh inning and gave up one run in the seventh."
The Diamond Spyders also saw production throughout their batting order, collecting 18 hits on the day, including 11 in the second game.
Designated hitter Brody Andrews of Tippy Valley finished with four hits with two walks and five runs scored in the doubleheader, while Plymouth's Trent Briles went 3-for-3 with three RBI in the nightcap.
"Great outing. Our guys put the bat on the ball today and came up big," Plothow said. "Briles, a big game in the second game with two two-out hits and picked up three RBIs. A great day for him, and we've got some guys that are going to do some good things for us."
And Post 27 showcased a fundamentally sound defensive lineup as well, as the Spyders tallied only two errors in its season-opener, both on pick-off attempts to first in the nightcap.
"I felt like our defense was pretty good. We had a couple errors, but those were pick-off errors in the second game," said Plothow. "But for the most part we did some good things only having practice a couple days, and we're going to have some guys in positions they're not comfortable in and they're going to have to get used to."
Plymouth jumped on top early in the opener with a run in the bottom of the first as Bremen-based leadoff hitter Sean Knepper â€” who makes the move from second to short with Post 27 this year â€” singled and was moved to second on an infield error, then advanced to third on a flyout to right from Andrews to set the table for a Tanner Andrews RBI on a fielder's choice grounder to second.
Post 27 struck again with three more runs in the third.
Brody Andrews reached on a fielder's choose to second as Brock Anson broke up the potential double play sliding into second, Tanner Andrews reached on an error at third, and Sean Knepper's younger brother and new center fielder Eric Knepper drew a walk to load the bases. Brody Andrews scored and Tanner advanced to third on a wild pitch, and returning catcher Nick Latham singled through the gap at short to score both Tanner and Eric and bring the score to 4-0.
Post 27 tacked on four more runs in the fourth to stretch its lead to a comfortable 8-0 margin as Brody Andrews doubled, Tanner Andrews drew a walk, and both moved up a base on a wild pitch. Eric Knepper singled in Brody, and Latham scored Tanner with a sac fly to left. Liedtky drew a walk, newcomer Wally Dickman singled in Knepper, and Liedtky scored on a passed ball at the plate for Post 27's final run of the game.
Highland scored its only run on a one-out solo shot to left by catcher Luke Polster in the top of the seventh.
Post 180 punished Liedtky for a hit batter with an RBI single from Poltster at the start of the second game, but the Diamond Spyders responded with four hits for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Sean Knepper again led off the order with a single them reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Hackworth with no one covering third. Brody Andrews singled him in with a line drive to left, Eric Knepper drew a walk, and Clayton Adamson loaded the bags with a grounder into center. Briles drove in his first run of the night with a two-out fly into left to give Plymouth a slim 2-1 lead.
Post 27 scratched out two more scores in the third as Hackworth led off with a single, and Eric Knepper doubled to the center field fence. Adamson's sac fly to left scored Hackworth, and Briles drove in Knepper with a grounder through the gap at second to put Plymouth up 4-1.
Highland cut the lead to 4-2 in the top of the fourth as Joey Pruitt led off with a single, and Alec Smith scored him when he put a ball in play to short that Sean Knepper made a nice diving catch and throw on.
Post 27 brought the score to its final margin in the bottom of the fifth as Eric Knepper led off the frame with a bunt single, Adamson singled and reached second on a throwing error from second to short, and Briles drove in Knepper with his third single of the game.
The Diamond Spyders officially unveiled their new mascot Saturday as well as a new lineup.
Hackworth, Liedtky and Latham all return to the battery, Sean Knepper returned to the infield, and Anson made the move up from the outfield to third, but much of the team's personnel are new and, for the most part, young.
Eric Knepper joins his older brother with the squad, while fellow Bremen product Wes Burkholder joins him in the outfield along with Wally Dickman and Shay Hepler of LaPorte and Warsaw, respectively.
More young talent adds to the mix in Briles, Plymouth pitcher/ infielder Riley Cartwright and Pilgrims catcher Elijah Nixon.
So far so good for a younger squad than what Post 27 has used in years past, says manager Will Hostrawser.
"We're young. We're not big and strong, but we're small and mighty I guess you could say," he said. We've got some good wheels up and down the lineup this year, so we'll probably be running a little bit more than we have in the past; probably be a little bit more aggressive with hitting and running.
"So far this team has really gelled together. Today there wasn't a lot of screwing around or anything. Guys are getting to know one another on the field and off, and it's a good mesh so far," Hostrawser added. "As far as communication on the field I was a little worried about that. This school does it this way and that school does it that way so we had to come up with our own signs and terminology and it worked today, so these kids are fast studies."
The team also has the benefit of a pair of new assistant coaches in LaVille head coach Dan Jones and former Warsaw coach Will Shepherd. Returning to the coaching staff are Hostrawser, Plothow, Mike Hite and general manager Dean Colvin, as well as trainer Ryan Carroll.
"We've got a lot of guys that are available to help coach. That's going to be big as we play 35 games here in about a month and a half," Hostrawser said.
Post 27 is back in action Tuesday, when the Diamond Spyders host Crown Point Post 20 at 7:30 p.m. It's Veteran's Night at Bill Nixon Field, and all vets who bring their veterans ID card will get in free.
â€˘Â POST 27 8-5,
HIGHLAND POST 180 1-2
Highland: 000 000 1 â€” 1 3 4
Post 27: 103 400 x â€” 8 7 0
James Hackworth (W); Nick Christiansen (L), Alex Frietag (4)
2B: Brody Andrews (P), Eric Knepper (P)
HR: Luke Polster (H)
Highland: 100 100 0 â€”Â 2 3 1
Post 27: 202 010 x â€” 5 11 2
Sean Liedtky (W), Tyler Niespodziany (Sv); Cody Glass (L), Scott Crilley (6)
2B: Eric Knepper (P)