HUGHESVILLE - Zach Fry and his Hughesville teammates worked all week on getting a great secondary lead against South Williamsport pitcher Billy Rummings. It was a matter of studying Rummings' left-handed pickoff move and how it changed between when he delivered the ball to the plate and when he threw to first.
Fry, the Spartans' sophomore clean-up hitter in Friday's game, said he got a pretty good feel for the move which helped him steal a pair of bases after leading off the fourth inning with a single. It put him in position to score on Brett Reitz's ensuing safety squeeze giving the Spartans the winning run in a 4-1 win over South Williamsport at Boone Park.
Fry's fourth-inning stolen bases were two of six the Spartans swiped on a wet and chilly Friday afternoon. The Spartans were proactive against Rummings, one of the district's best pitchers, trying to create scoring opportunities. Fry succeeded in that fourth inning, singling the other way to lead off the inning before swiping second and third. And Reitz was able to adequately place a two-strike squeeze bunt to score the run.
"Against Rummings we have to make things happen," Hughesville head coach Casey Waller said. "Sitting back and waiting for two or three hits to string together, it's just not going to happen. We tried to put the pressure on them."
It's how the Spartans scored all four of their runs in a brilliantly played high school baseball game. It was a little bit of pressure mixed with some clutch hitting, and Fry was in the middle of all of it.
Waller had put the left-handed hitter in the clean-up spot despite facing the left-handed Rummings because he wanted a hitter he knew wouldn't be afraid and would give him a tough at-bat. Fry, a two-time state qualifier for the Spartans' wrestling team, was exactly what Waller was looking for in that spot, and Fry didn't disappoint.
He drove a two-out, two-strike pitch through the right side in the first inning for an RBI single which tied the game at 1-1. He battled again leading off the fourth, taking a two-strike pitch the other way for a single between shortstop and third base. And his two-strike ground ball in the sixth inning advanced Jeremiah McCarty to third base where he scored from two pitches later on a Justin Lambert single.
"The first time we played (South Williamsport) I was stepping way out because that ball looks like it's coming right at you," Fry said. "I knew (Rummings) is a great pitcher and he's going to throw strikes. So I knew if I kept my foot in there I should be able to drive the ball. My main goal is just to put it in play wherever I can. If I drive the ball, then I get a base hit."
"The percentages in baseball say don't go with a lefty hitter against a lefty pitcher, but Zach was hitting the ball in BP the other day as well as anybody," Waller said. "The wrestler mentality of competing, he brings that over to the baseball field, and he's not intimidated. He's not in awe of anybody. He's going to get up there and give you quality at-bats. Sometimes he chases some things out of the zone, but he's got that Yogi Berra swing and he swings at anything and puts it in play. I was proud of him against Rummings, a tough lefty, to stay inside the ball and put it in play. That was huge for us."
South Williamsport was never able to create the kind of offensive pressure the Spartans did. A young, but talented team which has won six of its first nine games, got its only offensive output on a first-inning home run from Anthony Caruso.
Caruso, who hit his third home run in the last five games, took a 3-2 fastball which was up in the zone and deposited it over the right-field fence. Caruso was the long South Williamsport hitter to reach third base yesterday.
"Anthony sees the ball well. He's a Division I hitter, but the kids can't always rely on him," South Williamsport coach Shawn Finn said. "Some of the other guys have to come through at times. But Anthony is a great hitter."
The Mounties' offense was stymied by starter Tyler Mitcheltree and reliever Justin Lambert. Mitcheltree scattered five hits over 4 2/3 innings, allowing two hits in an inning only once, and those came from back-to-back batters in the top of the fifth inning.
Lambert, the Spartans' ace, shut the door on the Mounties over the final 2 1/3 innings, striking out six of the seven batters he faced to pick up the save. South Williamsport had just two at-bats Friday with runners in scoring position. The sixth through ninth hitters in the South Williamsport lineup went a combined 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts.
"You have to put pressure on them. That's a senior-laden team over there, a very experienced team, and I have a lot of young guys that haven't experienced games like this," Finn said. "This is a positive for us. This is a lesson learned. I'm not ashamed to lose to a team like that. We battled right to the end."
"Mitcheltree pitched an awesome game and Lambert today was a totally different pitcher," Waller said. "He came out with some life on his fastball and a good, sharp curveball. It was a good team win for us."
South Williamsport100 000 0 - 1 5 2
Hughesville100 102 x - 4 7 0
Billy Rummings and Derek Wisner. Tyler Mitcheltree, Justin Lambert (5) and Brett Reitz. W-Mitcheltree. L-Rummings. S-Lambert.
Top South Williamsport hitters: Carter Alexander, 2-3; Riley Thomas, 1-3; Anthony Caruso, 1-2, home run, RBI, run; Rummings, 1-2. Top Hughesville hitters: Mitcheltree, 1-3, stolen base; Brady Kimble, 1-3, run; Jeremiah McCarty, 1-3, run; Zach Fry, 2-3, RBI, run, 2 stolen bases; Lambert, 1-3, RBI, run, stolen base; Brett Reitz, RBI; Alex Welch, 1-1, stolen base.
Pitchers' lines: South Williamsport - Billy Rummings (6 IP, 7 hits, 4 runs, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks). Hughesville - Tyler Mitcheltree (4 2/3 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks); Justin Lambert (2 1/3 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks).
With runners in scoring position: South Williamsport 0-2; Hughesville 2-8.
Runners left on base-in scoring position: South Williamsport 5-2; Hughesville 3-3.
Pitches-strikes: South Williamsport - Billy Rummings, 106-75. Hughesville - Tyler Mitcheltree, 77-47; Justin Lambert, 30-19.
Batters faced-first pitch strikes: South Williamsport - Billy Rummings, 25-12. Hughesville - Tyler Mitcheltree, 20-11; Justin Lambert, 7-3.
Records: Hughesville (9-3, 7-1 HAC-II); South Williamsport (6-3, 5-2 HAC-II)