The Sacred Heart baseball team hit around in each of the first two innings and beat Stover 12-0 on Friday at Centennial Park.
Four consecutive hits in the bottom of the first drove in five runs. Three errors helped the Gremlins score five more in the second.
“Our middle-of-the-order guys and even the guys at the top of the order, we were swinging at fastballs early in the count,” said Sacred Heart coach Jaric Reid.
Danny Johansson pitched all four innings for Stover, allowing nine hits and striking out four.
“He’s a senior kid who’s been pitching the last two years,” said Stover coach B.J. Adams. “He throws strikes. It’s just Sacred Heart boys were hitting it where we weren’t and finding the squibs to get through a hole here or a hole there.”
Jackson Smith was hit by a pitch to lead off the first and Ben Smeltzer reached on an error. Back-to-back singles by Caleb Tanguay and Mason Kelchner drove in two runs, and a Chance Spangler double brought in two more.
“The first ball he put out and away and the second one he just put right down the middle,” Spangler said. “I’m seeing the ball well, and I just put it right in the gap.”
A single to right from Garrett Strange scored Kelchner to make it 5-0 after one inning. There was more Gremlin offense in the second inning. After Smith reached on an error, Smeltzer hit an infield single. Kelchner brought both in with a single.
“The guy put it in the zone and I just went with it to the right side,” Kelchner said.
Kelchner scored on an error, and two more runs came home in the inning on an error and a wild pitch.
Kelchner drove in four runs in the game, adding another on a sacrifice fly in the third. Spangler followed him with an RBI single up the middle to score Sacred Heart’s final run.
“We’re just hitting really good right now,” Spangler said. “We’re seeing the ball. When one guys hits, it gives us confidence for the next guy to hit.”
On the mound, Smeltzer struck out seven in three innings of work for Sacred Heart, allowing two hits and no runs.
“He was throwing first-pitch strikes and getting on batters early in the game,” Kelchner said. “Once you get that strike, you can really do anything after that. Our defense was fundamentally sound.”
Smeltzer walked two in the game, never displaying control issues despite sitting through lengthy bottom halves of innings.
“These guys are starting to understand what they need to do to get loose,” Reid said. “They know their bodies, and if they’re good to go, they understand that. If they need to throw while they’re not hitting, they do what they’ve got to do.”
Smeltzer worked around a one-out walk and stolen base in the first by striking out the next two batters. After Triston Harms singled with one out in the second, Smeltzer ended the inning on a strike-out-throw-out double play. Michael Simpson reached on an infield single in the third, but Stover could not push any runs across in that inning.
The Bulldogs (1-3, 0-2 Kaysinger) went down in order in the fourth off Gremlin relief pitcher Brendan Valko before drawing three walks in the fifth. Kelchner threw one of those runners out trying to advance on a wild pitch and Valko got a flyball to left to end the game.
“I was hoping we would make contact,” Adams said. “We had some defensive struggles here and there in the last couple of games. Being the third game in cold weather, that is not friendly for baseball season especially.”
The Bulldogs were scheduled to play four games this week, but a Wednesday game against Northwest was rained out.
“It’s tough to practice inside when it’s storming outside and not get the repetition to get some defensive practice on the field when it’s wet,” Adams said. “We’ve worked on a lot of drills the last couple of days. It’s just cold weather and not seeing the ball and all of a sudden it’s hit to you, slow reactions to not being ready and not being on your toes and ready to go.”
Sacred Heart (5-0, 1-0 Kaysinger) will host Pilot Grove at 10 a.m. Saturday and Versailles at 2 p.m. Saturday.