PLYMOUTH — In their season-opener Tuesday, the Pilgrims overcame some shaky fielding with big bats.
On Wednesday, Plymouth players made just one error, but they couldn’t string enough hits together at the plate to overcome the costly mistake in a 7-2 loss to South Bend St. Joseph’s at Bill Nixon Field.
The Pilgrims took a 2-0 initial lead on a two-run homer by Damon Howe, but a catching error at first on a routine grounder to short in the top of the third turned into three unearned Indians runs and a one-run deficit. St. Joe scratched out another run in the fourth on an RBI double to the center field fence by Evan Witskin to extend the lead to 4-2.
Plymouth, which racked up six hits at the game but never more than one in a single inning after the first frame, left runners stranded at third with less than two outs twice — including a one-out situation with runners on second and third in the bottom of the sixth — and never closed the gap. St. Joe tacked on three more runs in the seventh to put it out of reach.
“For starters, I’ve got to tip my hat to Jordan Scheetz. I thought Jordan Scheetz pitched a great game for his first time out, moved the ball well over the plate and had good control of his pitches,” said Plymouth baseball coach Tony Plothow. “Really the one big inning we had was unearned runs. We just didn’t catch a ball at first base, a ball that was thrown a little low maybe, but that’s a play we come up with, we come out of that inning with no runs there.
“We had some opportunities to get back in it when it was 4-2. A couple times we had some opportunities with tying runs, and we just didn’t come up with that big hit.”
“Plymouth jumped right on top with the big home run, and our guys didn’t panic, they didn’t quit,” said South Bend St. Joe coach John Gumpf. “There was a lot of game left, and we just kept battling back and we got some key hits.”
After Tuesday’s comeback win over South Central, Plymouth got off to a strong start, allowing no hits for no runs in the top of the first, then answering with a pair of runs off two hits in the bottom half of the inning.
Kyle Cartwright and Phil Iwinski tapped out singles in the Pilgrims’ first two at-bats, but Iwinski’s grounder at the 3-4 gap took an unlucky bounce and hit Cartwright on the leg and the senior catcher was called out. Howe lifted his first offering from St. Joe pitcher Dylan McMahon over the right field fence for his second homer in two games following a grand slam Tuesday to put Plymouth up 2-0.
But the lead didn’t last long as the Pilgrims went three up, three down in the bottom of the scoreless second, and the Indians scratched out three in the third.
Witskin — who went 2 for 4 with two doubles in the lead-off slot for the Indians — doubled to right with one out and moved to third on a catching error at first off a Brad Hartman grounder to short, and Kyle Zappia drew a walk to load the bases. Joe McCombs sacrificed to left to score Witskin, and number five hitter Nick Kleva lined a two-out, two-strike double into right to score Hartman and Zappia before Scheetz could induce another grounder to short to close out the inning.
“That was a big hit,” said Gumpf. “When you get two-out hits, that’s what wins you ball games.”
In the fourth, Spencer Harrison singled and was driven home on another two-out double, this time from Witskin, staking the Indians to a 4-2 lead.
Iwinski was moved from right onto the mound in the seventh for Plymouth but never found his stuff, walking three and giving up two hits for three runs in 1/3 of an inning before Cartwright took over for the final two outs. The bottom of the Pilgrims order went three up, three down on a classic double play to short and a strike out.
While St. Joe improves to 3-0, Plymouth slides to 1-1. The Pilgrims will host Triton at 5 p.m. Friday.
“We’ve got some stuff to grow on, to build on here today,” said Plothow. “I thought our defense was well-improved from last night; Richie Luva made some great plays at short. He looked real smooth out there, and he hit cut-offs from the outfield.
“We came up short tonight, but I think it’s something we can build on with the pitching and the defense. We’ve just got to get better at the plate.”
• SOUTH BEND ST. JOSEPH’S 7,
St. Joe: 003 100 3 — 7 8 0
Plymouth: 200 000 0 — 2 6 1
Dylan McMahon (W), Brad Hartman (6) and Neal Dowling; Jordan Scheetz (L) , Phil Iwinski (7), Kyle Cartwright (7) and Cartwright, Jacob Seagraves (7).
2B: Evan Witskin 2 (SJ), Joe McCombs (SJ), Nick Kleva (SJ)
HR: Damon Howe (P)
Records: Plymouth 1-1, St. Joe 3-0.