MOUNT VERNON — When two good teams square off, it’s the little things that can make or break a game.
Taking the extra base, tracking down a fly ball deep in the gap, making the big pitch when needed. Those types of things will win ballgames for a team.
That’s exactly what the Mount Vernon baseball team did Tuesday. The Jackets made the big plays, and all the little ones, in beating a tough Zanesville team, 6-5, with a run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“I’ve told the kids, the little plays will win ballgames for you,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage. “I can do everything I can to get them ready to play, but the bottom line is once they are between the lines, the kids have to make the plays and win the game for you. The players have to make the plays and tonight we made the plays to win the game.”
The biggest play came at the end of the game. With the game tied at 5, Russell Doup hustled to first on a ground ball to Zanesville second baseman Zach Pollock. Pollock’s throw pulled first baseman Austin Miller off the bag and Doup was safe.
Doup then scored easily when Alec Curry smacked a line drive single that bounced through left fielder Matt Maxwell and rolled to the fence.
“Any time you can win in your last at-bat, it’s exciting. That’s what we’ve been able to do lately — win late,” said Savage. “Russell got on on an error and that opened the door a little bit. We tried to steal Russell, but Alec fouled one off. We did not want to sacrifice and waste an out, especially since Alec Curry is swinging the bat so well.
“He (Alec) hit the ball so hard, it went right through him (the left fielder). At that point, we just had to make sure Russell touched all the bases. Alec has been swinging well, he’s swinging a hot bat, especially right now.”
Curry’s game-winning hit might not have been there had it not been for a few plays earlier in the game. MV center fielder Robert Kane saved the day for the Jackets (12-2) in the top of the sixth inning when he tracked down a long fly ball to right center by Kolton Maxwell. That catch kept the Blue Devils (17-2) from scoring in the sixth and stretching their one-run lead.
“Robert can flat out play center field. We’re very fortunate to have both him and Kenny Rucker, both are outstanding center fielders. Robert, tonight, had one in right center field — that was one big defensive play,” Savage said.
Kane had another good defensive play in the fifth when he caught a hot line drive that ended another Zanesville rally. Rucker, the left fielder, and Doup, in right field, also made some nifty plays.
The Jackets also got balance offensively, with the bottom half of the order more than picking up its share.
Curry, who batted sixth, had three hits on the day, while Ben Hoar (No. 7) had a hit and knocked in a run, and Kodi Green (No. 8) had a two-run triple and a single. Leadoff hitter Riley Swanson was also huge at the plate, smacking a single and a double off the fence and knocking in two runs. Cleanup hitter Justin Edwards smashed three singles.
“This was a heckuva high school baseball game. I told the kids, the thing I was most proud of, was they (Zanesville’s coaches) said we had competed as hard as anyone they’ve played this year. That’s a compliment to the kids and what I want us to be known for,” Savage said.
The Jackets had three runners score from first base on hits during the game. Hoar scored on a triple by Green, Green scored on Swanson’s double and Doup scored on Curry’s final hit.
Hoar went the distance on the mound for the Jackets, striking out four, while allowing eight hits and three walks.
“I thought Ben pitched his heart out. They are a good hitting team and are tough to strike out. Their batters make contact and put the ball in play. Ben kept the ball down and I thought he pitched a heckuva game,” Savage said.
The Jackets won’t have much time to celebrate the victory as they play host to Olentangy Orange today at 5:15 p.m. The game begins the second half of Ohio Capital Conference play and the Jackets will be looking to remain on top. They currently hold a one-game lead over New Albany and Hilliard Bradley.