ST. MARYS - Once St. Marys reliever Robbie Harper adjusted his pitches to coincide with the umpires strike zone, the world was a better place for the Blue Devils.
Wednesday afternoon at Dave Wilson Field, Harper struck out six in a row and finished with eight strikeouts in just four innings of work as St. Marys remained unbeaten at 12-0 after defeating Parkersburg Catholic, 10-7.
"As a team, we're doing everything extremely well," Harper said. "People talked about us early in the year about our hitting, but nobody really talked about our pitching. And our pitching with all five starters has been our best thing so far."
Photo by Kerry Patrick
St. Marys starting pitcher Jarrod Lough throws a pitch during Wednesday’s game with Parkersburg Catholic at Dave Wilson Field. Despite striking out five in three innings of work, Lough received a no-decision as the Blue Devils won, 10-7.
Harper switched positions after St. Marys starting pitcher Jarrod Lough lasted three-plus innings. After surrendering an RBI single to Jake Ullman and a sacrifice fly to Jake Boice two batters later, Harper began his string of punchouts.
Matthew Houser's two-run homer - his third long ball of the season and the first allowed by PCHS starting pitcher Andrew Cinalli- in the bottom of the sixth inning padded the Blue Devils' lead to 10-4.
"That fastball high felt pretty good coming off the bat," Houser said.
Harper labored in the seventh and was tagged for consecutive doubles by Boice and Payton Sturm as the Crusaders climbed to within 10-7 with one out to work with. But on PCHS' next at bat, Harper fielded an infield grounder and threw to first base for the final out of the game to post his fifth pitching win.
"The umpire was calling it where I threw it," Harper said. "Sometimes my curve ball tends to hang and the umpire was calling it. Whenever you get those calls, you get a confidence boost.
"I just found a zone for those two innings where I struck out six in a row and it's hard to get out of the zone when you throw like that."
The Crusaders, who slipped to 8-8, trailed 5-0 after St. Marys scored a single run in the second inning on an RBI base hit from Michael Fox followed by a four-run third inning. In addition to Houser's RBI single, the Blue Devils scored two runs on an error by the PCHS third baseman in the third inning.
PCHS climbed within striking distance with a fourth inning which resulted in four runs scoring on three hits. Mike Hinton contributed an RBI single during the outburst, which narrowed the deficit to 5-4.
Fox's second RBI of the game pushed St. Marys' lead back to 6-4 in the fifth, and the Blue Devils responded with a four-spot in the sixth inning to build a 10-4 cushion.
Lough received a no-decision after walking six and striking out five in his three innings, while Cinalli took the loss. The right-hander was roughed up for 13 hits while throwing all six innings.
"I thought Jarrod pitched halfway decent," St. Marys coach Ed Wilson said. "He had a little bit of control problems and we booted it around a couple times that let Parkersburg Catholic back in the game.
"I knew Robbie would be the guy to put in there because he has been in that situation before, so I stuck him in there and he did what I wanted him to do. Throw strikes and get us out of the game."
While St. Marys travels to sectional opponent Valley (Wetzel) for an afternoon doubleheader on Saturday, PCHS won't resume action until Monday when it hosts Charleston Catholic.
"You can't win when you strike out 13 times," PCHS coach Tom Harvey said. "We have to put the ball in play. The last few games we have been leaving small villages on base."