Strong pitching from Corbin Mertgen and a 10-run outburst from the offense helped the Rick Ball Ford Sedalia Juniors American Legion team to a 10-0 win over Rock Bridge Southside Friday at Dey Field at Liberty Park in the opening game of the Sedalia Wood Bat Tournament.
Mertgen issued a pair of one-out singles in the first before retiring the next nine batters he faced.
“I just throw it up there and try to let my defense work,” he said. “When they swing through it, they swing through it.”
Mertgen struck out five in the game, including two in the third inning and two more in the fifth. He needed 21 pitches to get through the first inning, but kept his pitch count in check the rest of the way, needing 21 total pitches to get through the second and third innings.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do with all of our pitching staff,” said Juniors manager Jeff Mays. “Throw to contact and I know that’s why we’re having so much success this summer. We’re not walking many guys. We’re throwing to contact and our defense is playing very well. Throwing strikes and not walking people is going a long way.”
Just four of the 18 Rock Bridge batters to face Mertgen got a first-pitch ball. He issued no walks in the game and got to a three-ball count just four times.
“I think he’s gotten really relaxed since he’s got here and he trusts the guys behind him,” Mays said.
After being held scoreless in the first, the Juniors scored two runs in the second, five more in the third and three in the fourth to invoke the run rule. They recorded 13 hits in the game including several infield singles, bunt singles and bloop singles.
“That’s the great thing about wood bats, we were hitting the ball really well and driving it and scoring a lot of runs,” Mays said. “The wood bat is kind of an equalizer. It’s a difference. We’re still swinging it really well and hitting the ball hard at times.”
Jayce Simoncic and Derek Bivins drew walks to start the first-inning rally and both came around to score, Simoncic on an error and Bivins on a Connor Spunaugle infield single.
The Juniors scored five runs in the third thanks to a series of Rock Bridge miscues and infield singles. Gavin Jones reached on an error to open the inning, then went to third on another error and the ball wound up in the Rock Bridge dugout on an overthrow. Chase Plymell followed with a single to left to score Jones. A walk and a bunt single loaded the bases before Plymell scored on a Bivins sacrifice fly to right. Another walk loaded the bases again and singles by Spunaugle, Baxter Mays and Gerhig Taylor brought in three more runs.
The Juniors added to the lead in the fourth. Plymell and Simoncic hit back-to-back doubles to open the inning, scoring Plymell. Luke Rincker followed with a single to right, taking second on the throw home to hold Simoncic to third. An error and a wild pitch brought home two more runs to make it 10-0.
The Juniors (23-5) will face Marshall at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Wood Bat Tournament.