Jake Arnold battled frigid conditions Tuesday night to pitch his team to victory over McIntosh. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

Starr’s Mill wins a pair to start three-game set with McIntosh

by Rob Grubbs

The start of the high school baseball season has been a showcase for early spring weather, but as the top-ranked Starr’s Mill Panthers ventured over to McIntosh High School on Tuesday for the start of a three game series, Mother Nature reminded everyone that it is still winter. With a damp cold and a stiff breeze blowing across the ballpark towards right field, the players had to battle the opponent and the elements while the hearty spectators were bundled up like ice fishermen when they were wearing shorts to games just a week earlier.
The conditions were especially tough on the starting pitchers, seniors Jake Arnold for the Panthers and Zach Sanders for the Chiefs. The cold temperatures can make the baseball feel hard as a rock, like a pool cue, making it harder to get the right grip on the ball, leading to less movement and action on their pitches than they are used to getting.
The game would stay scoreless early as both teams had runners on but were not able to push them across. It seemed like they spent the first few innings acclimating themselves to winter. Cole Gilley would get things started for Starr’s Mill with a hit in the third inning followed by an RBI single by Brian Port to take a 1-0 lead. The Panthers pushed two more runs across in both the fifth and sixth inning, with Port driving in two more and Arnold and Tyler Courtney adding one each to take a commanding 5-0 lead.
The story of the game was Arnold, who had pitched four scoreless innings for the win against Whitewater the week before. Throwing almost exclusively fastballs, moving them inside and outside the strike zone, Arnold was pitching to contact and letting his defense get the outs. As the game went late and with the lead in hand, the only question was if he would go the distance.
After getting the first out in the seventh, he issued a couple of walks and Panther coach Brent Moseley, knowing the importance of winning game one of a three game series, brought in reliever Chance Amell to close the game out for a 6-0 Starr’s Mill victory.  Arnold finished the game giving up only two hits while pitching into the seventh.
The production from Gilley was the key to the offensive output.
Coach Moseley said, “We moved him down to nine to get him going, and he responded by leading the offense tonight.”
On the pitching, Moseley said, “These conditions were hard on bother starters, they basically just had to rely on their fastballs to get outs. Jake looked really good, we wanted him to finish but we wanted the win more.”
When asked how it felt to be the top ranked team right now, Moseley would quip, “Nothing like having a big target on your back.”
For the Chiefs, Sanders pitched into the sixth and continued to fight, giving up six hits and keeping his team in the game. Kyle Riesselman and Ryan Sanders got the two hits off Arnold.
In the Thursday night game back at Starr’s Mill, the Panthers claimed a dramatic come-from-behind 8-7 walk-off victory. With two outs and two runners on, Kyle Evert plated the winning run, Amell getting the win in relief of starter Jack Moore.
Starr’s Mill went for their second region sweep in two weeks as they played the finale back at McIntosh on Friday with Will Evans taking the mound.


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Ahmad Ali breaks up a double play attempt by TJ Berry.

Whitewater takes first two games from Fayette County

by Christopher Dunn

The Whitewater Wildcats bounced back from a tough opening to their region slate with a pair of wins to start their series against Fayette County. After a brutal non-region schedule, the Wildcats lost two of three against McIntosh and got swept by Starr’s Mill, but they responded in their first two games against the Tigers, pounding out a 15-4 win in game one and an 8-1 victory in game two.
“The record doesn’t show it, but we’ve played well. We haven’t caught a lot of breaks early on,” said Coach Rusty Bennett, whose Wildcats now sit at 4-11. “We’ve played a very tough schedule, but now we’re in the part where we hope we can continue to play well and get some wins and try to find a spot in the top four in the region.”
Game two was a prime example of how the Cats hope to play, as they executed well in all phases of the game.
“We pitched great, we played great defense, and we hit the ball well,” said Bennett. “The first four innings we hit it on the nose, but we hit it right at them. After that, we had an inning where we hit it where they weren’t, and we were able to get some runs and take care of business.”
After Fayette County jumped out to a 1-0 lead on two hits in the top of the first, Whitewater starting pitcher Ryan Whelan settled in, dancing out of trouble and pitching 4 innings with just the lone run allowed. Drew Toro pitched 2 scoreless innings, and Trey Jordan finished off the night with a scoreless seventh inning.
The Wildcats had their own sharp start to the game, tacking on three runs in the bottom half of the first. Tyler Doanes led off with a bunt single and moved around on a Stone Kasten double. Jacob Henley and Reid Kasten each plated a run with a sacrifice fly, and Austin Gardner smashed an opposite field solo home run to grab a 3-1 lead.
Fayette County’s starting pitcher, Drew Hodges, would also get into a groove on the mound, keeping the Cats from crossing the plate the next three innings. He got some help from his defense, as first baseman Zach Scott made a pair of impressive stretches to preserve outs, and Jacob Sangster chased down a long fly ball in foul territory to end the fourth.
Whitewater’s offense came alive in the fifth as Doanes led off with a single, then proceeded to steal second and third base to force himself into scoring position. Henley singled him home, then the Cats plated a pair of runs on bases loaded wild pitches, the second scoring pinch runner Maddux Mueller. Dalton Goodman and TJ Berry finished the big inning, and the night’s scoring, with an RBI knock apiece.
The Tigers tried to stage a two-out rally in the sixth. Ahmad Ali and Hodges each singled, and Ali stole third, but third baseman Justin Burdette charged on a dribbler and threw a bullet to first for the third out. They went down in order in the seventh inning to end the night.
The teams tangled again Friday night with the Tigers looking to avoid the sweep.


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