PLYMOUTH — Some late big innings proved costly for Post 27 at the Terre Haute Tournament last week. It felt good to be on the other side back at their home field Thursday.
The Diamond Spyders broke a 1-1 tie with four runs in the bottom of the fifth and held on for a 5-2 win over visiting Mishawaka Post 161 in Post 27’s return to Bill Nixon Field.
“As the week progressed we’re four outs away from being 3-1 and playing for the championship. When you give up 14 runs in the seventh inning and you can’t close ballgames out you’re not going to win many of them,” said Post 27 manager Will Hostrawser of the Terre Haute tourney. “But tonight we had another tight ballgame, and our kids bounced back and stayed focused and got some runs late. We’re looking forward to the next time we take the diamond.”
Locked in a 1-1 stalemate, the Spyders got to Post 161 starter Jimmy Catanzarite in the bottom of the order’s second time at the plate Thursday.
Culver Community’s Nick Pritz — who started the game’s scoring with a solo shot to left in the second inning — sparked the big fifth with a looping single into center. Clayton Adamson bunted him over to second to set the table for John Glenn’s Kyle Liedtky, whose frozen rope down the right field line landed just fair, scoring Pritz and landing Liedtky at second. Glenn teammate Drew McDonald followed up with a single into shallow center that moved Liedtky to third, then stole second on the first pitch of Shay Hepler’s at-bat as the top of the order came around to face Catanzarite a third time, and his chopper through the gap at second plated both Liedtky and McDonald.
Tanner Hampton singled and Bremen’s Eric Knepper drew a walk to load the bases with one out, bringing Keith Gaboury up to the mound to relieve Catanzarite, and Gaboury staunched the bleeding as Jared Lemler hit back to him for a fielder’s choice ball that scored Hepler, and Ferguson fanned for the third out, leaving runners at first and third with the home team leading 5-1.
Mishawaka answered back with a run in the top of the sixth as Anthony Piraccini cranked a lead-off double to the centerfield fence in Tyler Niespodziany’s first batter faced relieving Ferguson, scoring on a Dylan Cressy groundout to second, but the visitors never got any closer as Niespodziany worked his way out of a jam in the top of the seventh to close out the game.
“We’ve been having problems getting on base, but when we do get guys on and in scoring position we actually take advantage of it,” said Hostrawser of his team’s big fifth. “The problem is we just don’t do it all that often. The kids broke it open. They got a little tired on the mound; they made a pitching change, and I thought our kids adjusted well at the plate and cornered the pitcher on hitters’ counts and took advantage of it.”
The Spyders outhit Mishawaka by a slim 8-6 margin, but they strung five of those hits together in the decisive fifth.
McDonald, Pritz and Hampton — who made the highlight defensive play of the night in the seventh with a diving stop at short and a throw from his back for the force out at second — each finished with two hits at the game, and Pritz accounted for two of his team’s runs. He staked his team to an early 1-0 lead with a four-bagger in the bottom of the second, taking Catanzarite deep to left on a fastball count to start the scoring for the night.
“I think he’s kind of grown into this a little bit,” said Hostrawser of Pritz. “He’s a great athlete: He’s got a good stride running; he’s got a real strong arm. He’s very patient at the plate, and he’s been a really good two-strike hitter as well. Even when he falls behind in the count, he stays aggressive and swings with a fairly high amount of bat speed. Tonight he got ahold of one on a 3-1 pitch and drove it out of here. He’s certainly got that capability any time he steps to the plate.”
Ferguson was steady on the mound as he moved to 2-1 giving up four hits and three walks for an unearned run lasting through five innings, and Niespodziany got the save surrendering two hits with a walk and a strikeout in the final two frames.
“We’ve noticed his pitch count approach is 60, 65 he gets a little tired in the legs, starts throwing up in the zone a little bit, and he’s worked on some endurance a little bit,” Hostrawser said of Ferguson. “He fought through a rough inning there and got to a point where we made a change, and Niespo came in. He did not make the trip with us down to Terre Haute, so he had fresh legs and a fresh arm. I think he was a little rocky with his command right out of the gate, but then he got ahold of things and started doing a nice job.”
Post 27 moves to 5-7 and is still solidifying its lineup just three weeks into the American Legion season. The Spyders will take the weekend off before playing their next game versus Valparaiso Post 94 at Chesterton High School Monday at 7 p.m. The team then travels to Concord for a rematch with Bristol Post 143 Wednesday, after which the Spyders hit the road for five games at the River Bandit Invitational at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio next Friday through Sunday before returning home to host the Patriot Tournament July 4-7.
“I kind of break your season into thirds. Your first third of the season you’re kind of bumping people around in the lineup, shifting your order around seeing who can hit where and who’s going to be the most consistent,” said Hostrawser. “We look a lot at on-base percentage in terms of offense, and there are certain guys that are more skilled at bunting or at hitting and running. We’re discovering that about the kids and still shifting things around.”
• PLYMOUTH POST 27 5,
MISHAWAKA POST 161 2
Mishawaka: 001 001 0 — 2 6 2
Plymouth: 010 040 x — 5 8 1
Jason Ferguson (W), Tyler Niespodziany (6, Sv); Jimmy Catanzarite (L), Keith Gaboury (5).
2B: Anthony Piraccinni (M), Kyle Liedtky (P)
HR: Nick Pritz (P)
Record: Plymouth 5-7