Apr. 10—MIDDLETOWN — The outcome of the pitching duel engaged in Friday evening between Blake Surface of Shenandoah and Zack Todd of Wes-Del hinged on defense, the one aspect of baseball that is largely out of the pitcher’s control.
Surface’s defense let him down while Todd’s made nearly all the plays, including one that effectively ended the hopes of winning for the Raiders.
Todd allowed just two hits while striking out nine batters and scored the winning run after reaching base on one of Shenandoah’s four fielding errors as the Warriors edged the Raiders 2-1 in the Mid-Eastern Conference opener for both teams.
Surface was every bit as dominant as Todd, surrendering just one first-inning single and striking out 10, but the four errors committed by his defense were costly.
“I told our guys when were in the cage yesterday that it’s going to come down to small ball, and you’re going to have to take care of the baseball,” Shenandoah coach Ryan Painter said. “Hats off to (Wes-Del coach) Daniel (Hanson) because he’s throwing freshmen and sophomores out on the infield and I’ve got juniors and seniors peppered around my infield, and we booted the ball around.”
After Surface needed just nine pitches to strike out the side in the second inning, Wes-Del’s No. 9 hitter, Harrison Pittsford, laid down a bunt to lead off the third. Third baseman Jasper Campbell’s throw was wide of the mark, allowing Pittsford to advance to second. He stole third and scored when catcher Jobe Robinson’s throw went down the left-field line, giving the Warriors (2-1-1) a 1-0 lead.
Shenandoah (2-6) got that run back in the third inning after Todd retired the first two batters on strikes. He walked Raiders’ leadoff batter Wyatt Lowder, Robinson lined the next pitch down the left-field line for a double and Lowder came all the way around with the tying run.
It remained 1-1 until the fateful fifth inning.
Surface fanned the leadoff batter before Todd reached when his grounder to short was erred by Rafe Hartley. Todd stole second and third and scored on a grounder to third by Alex Light.
The Raiders had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the inning when Hartley led off with a walk. Lowder put down a sacrifice bunt and, when Hartley saw no player in position to cover third base, never slowed down, putting himself 90 feet away with one out. Robinson was hit by a pitch and stole second, putting the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with one out for Surface.
Todd struck out Surface swinging on a pitch in the dirt, and Wes-Del catcher Arrick Lehman threw to first to complete the strikeout. On the throw, Hartley broke for home but was tagged out by Lehman after a perfect throw from first baseman Dawson Bookout to end the threat and the inning.
Todd retired the final six Raiders, including five on strikeouts.
Painter said sending Hartley was the right move in that situation.
“I would make that call to send Rafe 10 out of 10 times,” Painter said. “I would never second guess myself. It was bang-bang. … It just didn’t fall our way that time.”
Shenandoah will face another stern conference game Tuesday when it travels to Wapahani.
“I’ve just got to make sure these kids get through prom on Saturday and come back with a focused mind on Monday,” Painter said.
Contact Rob Hunt at email@example.com or 765-640-4886.