MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon High School varsity baseball team experienced some déjà vu on Wednesday afternoon against the Watkins Memorial Warriors. The only difference was this time, the Yellow Jackets came out with a win.
Last season, Mount Vernon held a 6-3 lead entering the seventh inning against the Warriors, but lost 7-6 after Watkins Memorial rallied. On Wednesday, Mount Vernon held a 6-3 lead entering the seventh inning once again. This time, however, the Jackets escaped the Warrior rally for a 6-4 victory.
“Robert Kane mentioned (last year’s) sixth inning, so it was on my mind a little bit, and I know it was on their minds,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage. “It was exactly 6-3 down at their place last year, and we kind of struggled pitching-wise like we did tonight. I thought Ben (Hoar), for four innings, threw shutout ball and you can’t ask for more than that. We brought in Shawn Maxwell, a sophomore, and he was able to shut the door on them and get the save. Between the two of them, I thought we pitched pretty well.”
Mount Vernon (8-1, 4-1 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division) struck first, getting five runs on the board in the first two innings. Justin Edwards and an RBI single in the first inning to plate Kane with the first run, and a fielder’s choice by Alec Curry and a throwing error plated Kolton Wilson and Hoar to put Mount Vernon ahead, 3-0, after one.
The second inning saw two more runs cross the plate. Tad Glibert, Riley Swanson and Kane hit back-to-back-to-back singles, with Glibert coming home on Kane’s knock. Wilson then reached on another Watkins Memorial (6-6, 2-3 OCC Capital) error, scoring Swanson to make it a 5-0 game.
“We changed our batting practice up a little bit and really started stressing getting the ball down on the ground and hitting line drives more, not hitting it up in the air,” Savage said. “I think the kids are starting to buy into that more. We only had one strikeout all game long, and a lot of our outs were tough outs, hard-hit balls. Most of the time tonight, our outs were tough outs.”
The Jackets’ bats then went quiet, but their defense kept the Warriors at bay. Diving catches by Swanson and Curry with men on base stopped threats in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively. Two double plays initiated by Wilson and Glibert also highlighted the defensive effort. Unfortunately, Watkins Memorial was able to score once in the fourth and twice in the fifth before the defensive gems.
“Alec made a nice catch in left field; that was a big catch because it saved us a run,” said Savage. “Riley made a nice diving catch in right-center. We turned two double plays in the middle infield. We played nearly error-free. The only area we broke down on — and it hurt us — was the walks. Our whole philosophy is to try to make the other team earn everything they get. We’ve done a good job of that this year.”
Watkins Memorial took advantage of Hoar’s wildness in the seventh inning after holding the Jackets in the bottom of the sixth. Hoar struck out Troy Winter to lead off the inning, but then threw six straight balls. That put D.J. Collins on base and gave Matt Connor a good pitch to hit, which he did for a single. John Parrott then followed with an RBI single to left, chasing hoar from the game.
“I looked at Kolton, and we both thought, ‘Oh not again.’ We just tried to stay calm,” said Glibert. “We were trying to keep Ben calm, and focused. We wanted him to make them hit the ball because we were confident we could field it.”
Maxwell, who picked up the win on Tuesday after throwing 57 pitches in six innings, came on in relief and shut the Warriors down. He got a pop-up and two fielder’s choice plays to end the inning and preserve the win.
The in keeps the Jackets in the hunt for the OCC title. After Monday’s loss at Hilliard Bradley, every win is important. Now with two under their belt since, the Jackets are prepared for two tough league games that lie ahead in the coming days.
“We’re in a good position right now,” said Savage of the conference race. “The only team that is unbeaten is New Albany, and we play them on Monday. When you are only playing 14 league games, they are all important. Obviously, tonight was another important one. The next one on Friday night is the most important on the schedule. We go to Big Walnut, and we’ll try to get another league win and keep pace.”