Fast start leads St. Joe past Tolsia 4-0
HUNTINGTON — The St. Joe Irish used a strong start, scoring three runs in the first inning on its way to a 4-0 win over the Tolsia Rebels Wednesday evening in a Class A, Region IV, Section 2 tournament game at the YMCA Kennedy Center. The win eliminated Tolsia (5-25).
By the time the Rebels starting pitcher Nick Blackburn settled in, it was too late. St. Joe (15-10-1) jumped on the Tolsia defense early, scoring three runs on four hits in the first inning as seven Irish players stepped up to the plate. The fourth and final run of the contest came on a two-out triple by Noah Beter in the bottom of the second inning, who proceeded to steal home plate after the cut-off man never made a throw to get the ball back in the infield.
After the first two innings, Blackburn locked down and gave up four hits over the next five innings and the Rebels defense played their way out of trouble as the Irish stranded eight and were kept off the scoreboard the rest of the night.
St. Joe coach Dave Jenkins said while he was disappointed in how the bats looked in the win, he was pleased with the defensive effort.
“Bronson (Barker) is one of those kids that it doesn’t matter what kind of situation I put him in, he’ll pitch well. I could put him in with bases loaded and a 3-0 count and he’d get us out of the inning. That’s just the way he is. He’s confident, throws strikes, and knows he’s got a good defense behind him.”
Barker pitched the final five innings after Lenny Washington was pulled after two complete innings of work.
The two combined to hold Tolsia to two hits and just four total base runners while striking out 11 total batters.
Jenkins said he gave Washington the nod to start after more than a week of rest so he could tune up and be used later in the week if needed.
The pitching was the cornerstone for St. Joe in the win, shutting down the top of the order and forcing the heart of the lineup to make plays. Tolsia’s Carson Stuart singled from the cleanup spot in the second inning and was joined on base by Josh Wilson, who drew a walk. Washington struck out the next batter and Stuart was caught stealing to end the inning. Tolsia senior Austin Bailey, the lead-off batter, doubled in the top of the sixth inning but was left stranded after two ground-outs, one back to the pitcher and one to first base.
“We just didn’t hit the ball very well and we knew that with Lenny (Washington) throwing we were going to struggle at first. Then the kids that saw Lenny, they were a little more prepared to come back through the lineup. Then they switched to (Barker) and he pitched well and by the time we made any adjustment to him, it was too late,” Tolsia coach Jeff Wallace said. “When we did hit the ball, it was right to the guys (in the field).”
The score could have been worse than it was. After a hot start at the plate, the Irish couldn’t find a timely hit for the rest of the game as they left the bases loaded in each the fourth and sixth innings, and went in order in the fifth. Jenkins said the bats will have to be better as the Irish move forward if they are going to play their way into the state tournament.