MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon High School baseball team must not know the meaning of “down and out.”
The Yellow Jackets trailed an Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division opponent for the second time this week, but rallied for another victory. On Friday, the Delaware Hayes Pacers held a 3-0 advantage heading into the bottom of the fifth only to see it slip away. The Jackets put up six runs on the scoreboard in the inning and earned a 6-3 victory.
“I knew we would compete, play hard and try to come back,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage. “I never doubted them. The type of pitcher they were throwing wasn’t giving us a lot of good pitches to hit — everything had movement on it. He had us a little bit stymied through the first four innings, but we got to him in the fifth. We put together a big inning like we are capable of doing. We changed out approach. We were a lot more patient, making him throw a lot of pitches. We were able to start hitting a few line drives, and come up with six big runs.”
Playing their fourth league game in as many days, the Jackets (13-2, 7-1 OCC) got the job done with solid pitching, flashy defense and some timely hitting. Luke Wilson picked up the win, pitching all seven innings. He allowed three earned runs, which were all scored back-to-back in the third inning, and two walks while striking out nine. Wilson, who fought his way out of trouble twice, threw 119 pitches in the game.
“This win is huge,” said Wilson. “Yesterday we went to New Albany, and that was the biggest game of the year so far. We beat them, 14-2. Today, we were expecting a good game, and Delaware gave us one.”
“Luke pitched his heart out tonight,” Savage said. “He gave up three earned runs, but we didn’t give them anything else. That’s a good formula for success. ... Luke is a competitor; he didn’t want to come out of the game. It looked like he was throwing every bit as hard in the seventh as he was at the beginning of the game. He is a strong boy.”
The Mount Vernon defense was solid, making no errors, and catcher Aaron Watts threw out two base runners in the game.
“Our defense has been solid this year,” said Savage. “The only thing we are lacking in is our bunt defense. We really need to spend a little time to get that cleaned up. The rest of our defense, infield and outfield, has been real good. I’m pleased with the way we are playing.”
Delaware (9-5, 5-4 OCC) threatened in the first inning, loading the bases with two outs, but Wilson got the Pacers’ Jake Shaw to foul out to first baseman Justin Edwards to end the threat. Mount Vernon tried to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning after Edwards singled with two outs, but Ben Severns grounded out to end the inning.
Mount Vernon left base runners on in each of the next two innings after Ty Benson singled in the second and Kolton Wilson singled in the third. Benson was thrown out on a fielder’s choice, which left Watts on, but stranded. Kolton Wilson was stranded at third after three straight groundouts followed his hit.
The Pacers, meanwhile, did some damage in the top of the third inning. Case Burns dropped a bunt single down the first base line to leadoff. Caleb Wilburn the stepped into the batter’s box. Wilburn, who had double to left-center field in the first inning, did it again in the third, driving in Burns. Jacob Bosiokovic then followed, hitting a two-run home run off the scoreboard in left field to give Delaware a 3-0 advantage. Bill Harkenrider singled with one out in the third, but was thrown out by Watts, and Shaw struck out looking.
“I really wasn’t expecting (them to try and steal), but as soon as they went, I was going after them,” said Watts. “It helps that Luke has a quick step, too. That was a benefit to me. Everyone played solid today.”
Luke Wilson settled in from there, setting the Pacers down in order over the next three innings. The only base runner Delaware had from the third inning on was in the seventh when Wilson walked Nate Stuntz to lead off the inning. Wilson seemed to get stronger, striking out five in the final four innings, including Burns twice.
“They have some good hitters,” said Luke Wilson. “I was trying to keep the ball low.”
Meanwhile, the Jackets finally strung together some hits in the bottom of the fifth inning, and took advantage of two Delaware errors. Watts reached on a leadoff error by Wilburn. Then, after back-to-back outs, Derek Baker walked. Watts, who had stole second, came around to score on an RBI single by Robert Kane. Edwards then walked to load the bases, and Severns came up big. He hit a single back up the middle, driving in two runs to tie the game. Mount Vernon wasn’t finished, however.
Luke Wilson helped his cause by hitting an RBI single to left. Both he and Severns moved up on a wild pitch, and Severns scored on a fielder’s choice by Benson, which Wilson beat out at third. Wilson then came around to score as Watts reached on an error for the second time in the inning. Benson was thrown out trying to advance to third to end the inning, but the damage was done — six Yellow Jacket runs were on the scoreboard.
“We got into a rhythm and started to get hit after hit, and most of them were with two outs,” said Luke Wilson. “We are a hitting team.”
Mount Vernon made one last push to add to its lead in the bottom of the sixth. Brian Hoar was hit by a pitch to leadoff, and Baker was plunked with one out. Both runners advanced on a groundout before Edwards filled the open base after walking. The threat ended, however, after Severns grounded into a fielder’s choice, which left Hoar out at home plate.
“The last time we played (against Delaware), we scored seven runs. Hitting is our thing,” said Watts. “We expect everyone to hit and everyone to score. We are a team.”
With the win, Mount Vernon controls its own destiny in the OCC Capital race. The Jackets (7-1, .875) hold a three-game advantage over New Albany (4-1, .800). Delaware is third (5-4, .556); Watkins Memorial is in fourth (3-4, .429); Big Walnut is fifth (2-3, .400); Olentangy Orange stands in sixth (2-6, .250); and Franklin Heights remains winless in league play (0-5, .000). New Albany visits Mount Vernon on May 6.
“This was a big conference win for us,” said Savage. “We’re sitting in the catbird seat. We’ve got no one to worry about except ourselves.”
“We’re ready to finish strong heading into the tournament,” said Luke Wilson.
The Jackets have an opportunity today to step away from the conference race and just play baseball as Lexington comes to town. The Minutemen and the Jackets will play a pair, beginning at noon at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
“(Nonconference games) are always good practice,” said Watts. “We’ve got to be ready to play.”