Timely hitting and clutch pitching led the Sacred Heart Gremlins baseball team to an 8-3 win over Pilot Grove on Saturday at Liberty Park Stadium.
Four of the Gremlins’ runs came with two outs, and Connor Simon gave up three runs — one earned — on six hits with six strikeouts and three walks in seven innings.
“Connor struggled early. He was getting behind a lot of batters,” Sacred Heart coach Jaric Reid said. “After about the third inning, he really started to work ahead of the guys. He just pitched lights out after that. I thought he was terrific. He needed a game like this. It’s going to be good for his confidence.”
Simon’s success came from changing speeds.
“You gotta change it,” catcher Mason Kelchner said. “Pitching’s all about upsetting batters’ timing.”
Sacred Heart had nine hits, and every starter reached base at least once.
“Everybody was hitting. Everybody was getting on base, drawing a walk,” Kelchner said. “That’s what we need to win games.”
Trenton Young was charged with the loss, yielding six runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and three walks in four innings.
“That was a great pitcher they threw to start off with,” Reid said. “We did a really good job of fighting with two outs. That’s probably the best we’ve hit with two outs this season. When you do that, it really gets on the other pitcher’s nerves, and it really gets (the other team) down, so you’ve got to do well with two outs. I thought we did that today.”
The Gremlins (3-2) jumped on top with two runs in the first inning and handed Pilot Grove (5-1) its first loss of the season.
With two outs, Garrett Strange, who went 2 for 3 with two runs scored, and Mason Kelchner, who went 2 for 3 with two RBIs, hit consecutive run-scoring singles against Young.
The Tigers took advantage of a shaky start by Simon in the third inning.
Young doubled, moved to third in Kendall Kraus’ sacrifice bunt and scored on Alex Twenter’s infield single.
“He’s got to hit his spots,” Kelchner said of Simon, “but when he’s got people on, he’s in the strike zone most of the time.”
Strange singled and scored on Kelchner’s double to extend the Gremlins’ lead back to two (3-1).
Sacred Heart struck for three runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth against relief pitcher Twenter.
In the fourth, Caleb Tanguay hit a two-run single to left field, and Strange’s sacrifice fly to center drove in Ben Smeltzer, who singled to load the bases. Smeltzer went 2 for 4 with two runs scored.
In the fifth, Chance Spangler drew a leadoff walk and scored on an error by the center fielder, and Smeltzer, who singled with two outs, scored on a wild pitch.
Pilot Grove scored two unearned runs in the seventh. Young had a sacrifice fly and Kraus singled home the second run.