UTICA — The Utica Redskins aren’t satisfied with being Mid-Buckeye Conference champions.
They want more. Lots more.
The Redskins were well-prepared with lots of everything and plenty to spare as they poured it on the visiting Licking Valley Panthers, 12-0, in their Division II sectional final game.
Utica pitcher Jeremy Jenkins gave the Redskins just what they needed — a three-hit shutout in a run-rule-shortened game. His performance included six strikeouts and only a pair of walks.
“I knew (Licking Valley was) a good team,” said Jenkins. “We had been scouting them for three or four games. I knew I had to come out strong.”
That was how it went as only three Panthers reached base against Jenkins in the first three innings.
“Jeremy pitched a gem of a game,” said Utica coach Bren Henderson. “He did a great job.”
Jenkins also contributed with his bat, launching a first-inning double to the fence. His shot scored second baseman Brett Robberts, who had led off the Redskins’ first with a single. Jenkins would score on a double by designated hitter Kyle Gattrell (3-for-3, 2 RBI). That put the Redskins up 2-0 and they never looked back.
“I think that set the tempo for the game, when Jeremy hit that one to the fence,” said Robberts.
Henderson had anticipated a tough battle against the Panthers’ pitching.
“We hit the ball well against two top-notch pitchers (freshman starter Drew Morrison and junior Devin Carr),” said Henderson. “There was that freshman. We had heard a lot about him and we were prepared for him. We hadn’t seen him in person but you can get ideas of what he can do.”
In the second inning, with Utica right fielder Danny Rife (1-for-1, two runs) standing on first and two out, Robberts smashed a triple all the way to the wall in center field. Rife scored to make it 3-0. Watching Robberts run, there was little doubt that he was going to take three.
“I saw (the center fielder) throwing it to second and I immediately thought, ‘third’.” said Robberts, who was 3-for-3. “I just kicked it in. I knew I could get there.”
In the third, the Redskins loaded the bases with one out, eventually sending nine batters to the plate. They only managed a pair of hits but racked up four walks and scored four more runs. The inning was highlighted by a Robberts’ RBI single to put the Redskins on top, 7-0.
The Redskins added five more runs in the fourth, sending 11 batters to the plate as they touched up Panthers’ reliever Austin Skeese for six hits. They harrassed the Panthers throughout the game with their aggressive, heads-up baserunning style.
“Our coaches taught us from Day 1 to be aggressive,” said Robberts, who had a pair of steals. “That’s in the strike zone, in the batter’s box and on the basepaths. We’ve got a lot of fast guys and, when we’re aggressive, we make things happen.”