In the sixth inning, Starr’s Mill pitcher Hayes Heinecke was jolted by a familiar sound. As he ran towards the dugout railing, a wide smile came across his face. Just as the crowd started to roar, he knew exactly what happened.
His teammate and good friend Mitchell Sutton crushed a 3-1 fastball over the left field wall. The home run broke the seal of a scoreless tie with McIntosh and gave Heinecke a chance to be the pitcher of record.
“Mitchell is known for his home runs,” Heinecke said. “It was really nice to get some run support and I was just pitching with the lead after that.”
The home propelled Starr’s Mill to a 2-0 victory over McIntosh on Tuesday night. It moved them to 7-5 and kept them undefeated in the region. McIntosh fell to 9-4 on the season.
“They stayed in it and we played good defense,” Starr’s Mill head coach Brent Moseley said. “We finally got a couple of runs there in the bottom of the sixth. Mitchell had a great day and I think was 3-for-3. He had a couple more chances and didn’t commit any errors.”
The run support was more than enough for Heinecke. He was proficient against McIntosh and attacked hitters with a devastating fastball. Heinecke allowed three hits and had six strikeouts in his outing. He also took a no-hitter into the fourth inning, before McIntosh outfielder Andrew Pinckney ripped a fastball up the middle to break it up.
“My fastball was good and I could command it well,” Heinecke said. “I had a great defense behind me and there wasn’t much else to do besides make them put the ball in play.”
However, he did run into some trouble at times. In the sixth inning, McIntosh had their best chance to get on the board. The Chiefs had a runner in scoring position after first baseman Ethan Ange walked to start the inning.
Ange was sitting on third base as Pinckney stepped in with two outs. Heinecke challenged Pinckney with a couple of fastballs and they both resulted in early strikes. Later, he set him up with a curveball, which Pinckney took for a ball.
After changing his focus point, Heinecke came right back with a sweeping fastball that got Pinckney to chase for the strikeout. It ended the inning as the Panthers escaped unscathed.
“I learned at a young age my fastball moves a lot and I have learned to take advantage of it,” Heinecke said. “I used it to keep hitters off-balanced.”
The pitching sequence was just one of many crafted by Heinecke and McIntosh pitcher Burke Berry. Both players dueled all night with dazzling performances.
Berry matched Heinecke stride for stride. He dominated the inside corner of the plate and blasted Panther hitters with late-breaking fastballs. He also stayed ahead in the count and forced Starr’s Mill to put the ball in play.
He allowed two runs and four hits in six innings of work. He was undone by the Sutton home run and a RBI single by freshman Sean White in the sixth inning.
Overall, Berry had a quality start and drew the praise of Starr’s Mill coach Brent Moseley. He was impressed with his moxie on the mound.
“Berry was great and he stayed ahead in the count,” Moseley said. “I don’t remember very many three ball counts. When we got him 3-1, he had to come inside. Mitchell just didn’t miss it.”
McIntosh head coach David Munoz agreed and was proud of how is team competed in the game. He said the Chiefs played great defense, but just didn’t make enough plays.
“They made a couple hits when they needed it and we didn’t,” Munoz said. “It was a great game and you tip the hat to the pitcher as it was well pitched. They had great defense and outplayed us.”
Munoz later continued that he sees his team bouncing back in the series.
“We will rebound and hopefully we can take the next two games,” Munoz said. “Hopefully, we can get in a better position for state coming up.”
These two teams will continue their three-game series on Thursday. If game one is any inclination, the Battle of the Bubble on the baseball diamond will be a fun ride.