PLYMOUTH — Plymouth ace Richie Luva has been working on his control.
The lessons he’s learned paid dividends for the Pilgrims in their Northern Lakes Conference opener Monday as Luva pitched a complete seven-inning shutout, and Plymouth opened conference play with a 4-0 win over visiting Elkhart Memorial at Bill Nixon Field.
Luva exhibited impressive control in the windy conditions, working off his curve and an elusive knuckleball to strike out six with no walks and no runs on four hits in 25 batters faced. Indeed, his command seemed to improve as the game wore on as he fanned the Chargers’ final three batters in the top of the seventh for his third win on the mound this season.
“I’ve been working at it a lot, throwing my curveball right there where I want it to be, just working my locations,” said Luva. “Thanks to Coach (Josh) Dietz, he’s been helping me a lot.”
“A great start,” said Plymouth head coach Tony Plothow. “Obviously, you want to start the conference 1-0, and we owe a lot of this tonight to Richie. What a great performance on the mound keeping ahead of hitters, walking nobody tonight and striking out six. Throwing 80 pitches, I felt real good about his control. He kept them off-balance.”
While Plymouth benefitted from Luva’s masterful performance on the hill, the Pilgrims also capitalized on a few mistakes from Memorial pitcher Ben Brewers.
Five wild pitches from the left-handed senior and a throwing error from home translated into four runs for Plymouth in the third and fifth innings.
“We took advantage of some of their mistakes,” said Plothow. “You’ve got to do that in a game like tonight with the weather the way it was. We took advantage of some things.”
Pilgrims catcher Kyle Cartwright drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the third to start the Pilgrims’ outburst, followed by a line single into left from Chase Peters, and Cartwright scored and Peters took third on a pair of wild pitches during Luva’s second at-bat of the night.
Luva drew another walk, and designated hitter Jake Segraves took first on an uncaught third strike and overthrow to first, which scored Peters, and Luva scored a run on another wild pitch from Brewers to put Plymouth up 3-0.
Damon Howe scored the final run of the night in the fifth with a double to the left field fence, reaching third on Brewers’ final battery error of the night to set the stage for an RBI single from Peters.
“That’s been our nemesis all year, giving up the big inning,” said Memorial head coach Scott Rost. “You tell the kids time and time again — and I know it’s not intentional on their part — when you walk kids and you make errors, it leads to big innings. I think they had one hit in that (third) inning and it leads to three runs. You can’t do that, especially when you’re struggling offensively.”
Plymouth improves to 4-2 overall with a 1-0 NLC start. The Pilgrims are entering a busy stretch with four more games in five days, starting with a home conference game with Concord at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’re looking forward to this busy week, especially starting out 1-0,” Plothow said. “It’s a good team win tonight.”
• PLYMOUTH 4,
ELKHART. MEMORIAL 0
Memorial: 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Plymouth: 003 010 X — 4 9 2
Richie Luva (W, 3-0); Ben Brewers (L)
2B: Jordan Hinton (EM), Damon Howe (P), Phil Iwinski (P).
Records: Plymouth 4-2 (1-0 NLC), Elkhart Memorial 1-7 (0-1 NLC).