SHENANDOAH JUNCTION— With so many new-to-the-team faces reporting to duty in late February, Jefferson’s baseball team would need a few voyages to shake out where the inexperienced bodies would best fit in the 2012 scheme of things.
The Cougars lost a few games. Lost them to four area schools. Infielders made too many errors. What would normally be routine plays became hold-your-breath trouble.
Freshman Andrew King was at third base. Andrew Grove was at shortstop. Both had too many problems.
About 12 games into the season, both infielders had lost their starting spots. But then King was reinserted . . . at shortstop and Grove was reinserted . . . at third base. Casey Billmyer was placed at first base, and the Cougars starting winning on a nightly basis.
The Jefferson winning streak was at six games last Tuesday when it used the three straight hits from King and the route-going pitching of junior Blake Johnson to tame county rival Washington, 4-2.
Johnson made the Cougars’ defensive challenge much easier because he fanned seven and needed no spectacular fielding plays behind him. Jefferson made the routine plays. And it defeated Washington because it did and because it had nine hits off Patriot right-hander Jared Silva.
After using a pair of two-run rallies to trump Washington’s two-run double from Drew Hetzel, the Cougars held an 18-6 overall record that included a 3-1 record in Sectional games. Washington was 12-12 overall . . . but had the No. 1 seed (and a first-round bye) with its 3-1 record to take to the three-team Sectional tournament.
The complexion of the game was smooth and crisp. And the errors were very few . . . as were the walks on both sides.
Johnson was miserly with the hits he allowed, only three in number. Johnson’s walks numbered four, but one of his two troubled innings saw him walk the bases loaded with just one out.
Already trailing by two runs, the Patriots were presented with an opportunity that might not come around again. When Johnson induced a pop out from Silva and retired Ryan Pansch on a ground out, Washington had clearly missed its walks-given chance.
Silva effectively spaced the nine hits he doled out. But it was his ability to throw strikes and walk only one that served him best.
King reached Silva for three singles. Frasor Brown had two hits and Billmyer and Dennis Jackson drove in runs.
When a team is winning games in bunches, it appears to be comfortable and ready to accept another victory. Team-wide comfort is the product of walk-free pitching. And walk-free pitching allows for some physical errors that don’t affect winning or losing.
With Andrew King at shortstop, Grove at third base, and Billmyer at first base, Jefferson appears to be more comfortable . . . and it showed in its 4-2 win over Washington last week.