Strikes, strikeouts mean satisfactory opener for Cougars

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION— Strikes and strikeouts from Jefferson complete-game pitcher Blake Johnson got the Cougars past Wyoming Area (West Pittston, Pa.), 3-2, in the season opener for both teams on Friday night at Sager Field.

Johnson walked only two of the 28 batters he faced in going the distance in his first appearance of the season. He fanned 11, including Eric Wachoviak with two runners aboard to get the game’s final out in the Warrior seventh.
Jefferson’s four errors made Johnson’s strikeouts all the more important.
The junior right-hander even had a no-hitter through five innings of seven-strikeout pitching.
But then Wyoming Area rallied for two runs in the sixth and exposed Jefferson’s defense while making it a 2-2 game. A bunt single was the Warriors’ first hit. In quick succession came a stolen base, single, a Johnson wild pitch, a second Johnson wild pitch that scored Wyoming Area’s first run, a Mike Carey single that made it a 2-2 game, an errant throw back to the infield on Carey’s hit . . . and a single off the glove of an infielder.
Coming into the Wyoming Area sixth it was Jefferson clinging to a 2-0 lead. But with two outs, there were runners on second and third and the score was tied.
The Warriors’ Bart Chupka drilled a low line drive right to third baseman Cody McDowell for the inning’s third out.
The Cougars had already stranded eight runners when they batted in the sixth.
Pinch-hitter Michael King drew a lead-off walk on a 3-2 pitch. Matt Henshaw shoved a bunt past the pitcher’s mound for a hit. Anthony
DiAmario also bunted, but the sacrifice attempt went directly to the pitcher. The quick-footed King was able to beat a late throw to third and the bases were loaded with no outs.
After Corey Mangold popped out to shortstop, Fraser Brown was walked on a 3-2 pitch . . . and Jefferson was back in front at 3-2. The score didn’t move as Dennis Jackson and pinch-hitter Sean Spotts both struck out . . . leaving the bases loaded and the Cougars with a one-run lead.
Johnson retired the first two batters in the seventh, but then a harmless looking infield grounder was misplayed and another stolen base had the potential tying run at second. A walk — only Johnson’s second of the night — had two aboard before Wachoviak went down on strikes to end the great-baseball-weather night on a happy note for the youth-glutted Cougars.
Eleven strikeouts had been enough to overcome four errors and one mistake-strewn inning.
Jefferson’s earlier runs had come in its first turn when DiAmario had drawn walk to begin things. He stole second and scored on Brown’s hard ground single to center. After an error, Jackson was walked and a free pass issued to Matt Ballou loaded the bases.
Casey Billmyer scratched out an infield single that scored the opening inning’s second run and kept the bases loaded.
A strikeout ended the inning . . . and the Cougars had their runs until the sixth when one more proved to be just enough to beat the Warriors.


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