Wild pitching costly for Lions as Pilgrims rally past Bremen, 4-3
PLYMOUTH — Bremen head coach Bo Hundt knew coming into the season that his team’s fortunes were going to hinge on pitching.
It was certainly the Lions’ undoing Wednesday.
Bremen’s pitching staff struggled with control issues in the blustery conditions, and Plymouth capitalized on a total of 11 walks and five wild pitches — including four bases on balls and a pair of wild pitches during a decisive three-run sixth — as the Pilgrims claimed their second straight win with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the visiting Lions at Bill Nixon Field.
“That’s one thing that we talked about this year. We’re going to play defense with the best of them, we’re going to put the ball in play, we’re going to do the fundamentals right, but it’s going to come down to pitching,” said Hundt. “We were doing great, we were up 3-nothing and then got in some trouble with some walks and wild pitching and they got a run in. Then in the sixth inning, same thing, they got walk, wild pitching, walk, and then they come up with the timely hit. That’s what happens when you put guys on base and give up the freebies out there. You can’t have 11 walks, especially against a Plymouth team.”
Bremen jumped out to the initial lead with three runs in the first two innings, and starter Nate Leeper held the Pilgrims scoreless with two hits for the first three frames before getting into trouble in the fourth.
Plymouth designated hitter Jacob Seagraves worked his way back from a 1-2 count to draw a leadoff walk, and Ike Kastner took his first pitch down the left field line for a standup double to put two runners in scoring position with nobody out.
It looked like Bremen might wriggle off the hook when Leeper struck Blake Milliser out and Seagraves was thrown out heading home on a passed ball that bounced halfway back to the plate before Bremen catcher Tyler Johnson tossed back to reliever Eric Knepper — who had been called in from center to replace Leeper on the mound — to catch the sliding Seagraves and leave two out.
Knepper walked the bases loaded, and Kastner was able to capitalize on another wild pitch before Joe Knapp went down looking to end the inning with the Lions holding on to a 3-1 lead.
In the fifth inning, Wes Burkholder was caught trying to steal second after coaxing a one-out walk from Plymouth pitcher Jordan Scheetz, Sean Knepper drew another walk with two down, and Eric Knepper was hit by a wild pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. A double steal put both Kneppers in scoring position, but Leeper flew out to center to leave both stranded.
The Pilgrims put runners on first and second with nobody out again in the bottom of the inning, but Seagraves’ intended sacrifice bunt popped up to first, and a fly out to right and strike out ended the inning without any damage.
After a three up, three down top of the inning, Plymouth finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth.
Hayden Skirvin drew a leadoff walk, pinch hitter Riley Cartwright poked a single into shallow right, and both advanced on a wild pitch to Dan Smith as the top of the order came back around. Skirvin scored on a Smith grounded-out to third, Cartwright took third on another wild pitch as Knapp drew a one-out walk then stole second, and short stop Connor Flynn drove in the tying run with a sac fly to deep center. Peters drew a walk, Seagraves singled through the gap at short to load the bags, and Eric Knepper walked in Knapp with two outs for the game-winner before Dillon Mullen came in to close out the inning with a strikeout.
“The first couple innings we didn’t execute,” said Plymouth head coach Tony Plothow. “One inning we didn’t get a bunt down after getting runners on first and second and the other inning we had second and third and nobody out, and we couldn’t score on a passed ball. We finally got a two-out passed ball to score our first run. In that last inning we were ready to bunt again, and we got a pitch in the dirt so we ended up moving people over. We took advantage of some mistakes to tie the game. Connor had a big at-bat after getting down two strikes to hit that fly to tie it, and then we got that last run to get the lead.”
While Scheetz held the Bremen order to just two hits going the distance, the Lions were able to use some small ball and a pair of Plymouth throwing errors to jump on top in the first two innings.
Eric Knepper drew a one-out walk on a six pitch at-bat, stole second and scored stealing third on an overthrown pickoff attempt that sailed into left as Pilgrims freshman catcher Elijah Nixon stepped around Leeper at home plate to give the Lions an initial 1-0 advantage.
Bremen plated another two runs in the second as Jacob Bennitt singled into right in the leadoff spot, and Scheetz’s throw to second went errant as he turned to gun him down heading to second after Bobby Cornett’s bunt down the third baseline, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Ben Coxey grounded out to second to score Bennitt, and Burkholder laid a perfect sacrifice bunt down the first baseline on a squeeze play that scored Cornett and put Bremen up 3-0.
“That’s kind of how we play; we’re not going to have a lot of hits,” said Hundt. “We’re going to hit the ball hard at some guys. We take the bat out of some of our guys’ hands by bunting, moving guys around and stuff like that. Hits-wise, I thought we hit Scheetz very well tonight. I thought our hitting was timely when we needed it, except for that last inning when the guy was on. Our guys hit the ball hard but just right at somebody.”
“The whole game was lack of execution on our part early,” said Plothow. “We didn’t handle the bunt very well. We threw it into center when (Bennitt) gets to third there and then Knepper steals third and we throw it into left field. Their first couple runs were lack of execution on our part and then our runs were lack of execution on their part.”
Bremen slips to 2-3 with Wednesday’s loss and will host Tippecanoe Valley Friday before beginning Northern State Conference play with John Glenn Monday. Plymouth improves to 3-2 and will have a four-day layover before opening its Northern Lakes Conference schedule at Elkhart Memorial Monday.
“I think (Bremen’s) going to be a good team,” Plothow said. “They’ve got everybody back; it starts with the Knepper boys, and Leeper’s a good pitcher. They’re going to be good. They’re a veteran team so I’m real happy we got the win tonight. I’m not happy with the way we executed both offensively and defensively. We’ve got three or four days here to get ready for the conference.”
• PLYMOUTH 4, BREMEN 3
Bremen: 120 000 0 — 3 2 0
Plymouth: 000 103 x — 4 6 2
Nate Leeper, Eric Knepper (4, L), Dillon Mullen (6); Jordan Scheetz (W)
2B: Joe Knapp (P), Ike Kastner (P)
Records: Plymouth 3-2, Bremen 2-3