With a tough Hamilton Township team coming in, the Orange Pioneers’ Thursday game was more than just a tune-up for Friday’s Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division game with Hayes.
Orange still went about its business expertly, scoring six times in the second inning and finishing with a 9-4 non-league victory over the Rangers at Orange High School.
“We got everybody out and we got everyone on the bench in, and our backups played very well,” Orange coach Phil Callaghan said. “We really didn’t have much pitching, so (senior Michael) Lindell throwing strikes and getting through 6 2/3 innings made a big difference. It was a good ballgame.”
Lindell and the Orange (19-2) offense did the damage early on. Lindell pitched in the zone most of the game until tiring in the seventh, but earned the win allowing three earned runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Senior Austin Simpson also did well, pitching the final third of an inning and allowing one Hamilton Township (13-10) hit.
“Michael hadn’t pitched much all year, so he’ll be sore tomorrow,” Callaghan said. “With the game against Delaware tomorrow and two on Saturday against Dublin Scioto, we had to save pitching, and with Michael’s outing today, it turned out about as well as we could hope.”
The Pioneers committed three errors on the day, but were still strong in the field and showed flashes of brilliance at times. Freshman shortstop Tyler Johnson ran down one ball deep in the hole and senior first baseman Matt Sargent made a diving catch, keeping his foot on the bag to retire the Rangers’ Michaele Cremeans in the sixth.
Senior catcher David Kaiser ended the Hamilton sixth on a foul ball with the bases loaded, losing sight of the ball at first but recovering to make the catch. In the seventh, senior outfielder Chad Kirksey sprinted deep into foul territory to run down a long drive off the bat of the Rangers’ Mitchell Johnson, then threw a strike to second base to hold the runner at first.
“We had a few guys out of position, but we came up with some good plays,” Callaghan said. “Chad made a great catch in the outfield and I liked the way David played behind the plate, so I was very pleased with the defense.”
Meanwhile, Orange took care of the offense early. After loading the bases and failing to score in the opening inning, the Pioneers got back-to-back singles by senior outfielder Anthony Mancini and sophomore catcher Alec McCurry in the second. Both then came home on a triple to the center field wall from sophomore third baseman Cody McCague.
McCague scored on a wild pitch, senior outfielder Lucas Poole followed with a walk, and senior second baseman Luke Wolford drilled another three-bagger to the center field fence to plate Poole. Senior outfielder Cole McCurry drove in Wolford with a single up the middle and scored an out later on a two-base error.
Orange got another run in the third inning when Poole doubled to right center with one out and took third on a Wolford single. Wolford then stole second, but a good throw from the Ranger catcher sailed between the middle infielders into center field, allowing Poole to score.
The Pioneers got their final two runs in the fourth, when Cody McCague doubled to the wall in left to score senior designated hitter Billy McCague and senior outfielder Ryan Black.
“I thought everyone moved the ball very well offensively,” Callaghan said. “It was just a fun ballgame for the offense.”
Hamilton Township scored an unearned run in the second inning and added three more in the seventh off Lindell, who threw 93 pitches, 51 of them strikes, before Simpson got the final out with a ground ball.
Cody McCague finished with a triple, double and four RBIs for the Pioneers, while senior second baseman Ryan Benecke added two singles off the bench. Wolford finished with a triple and an RBI while Poole added his double. Cole McCurry, Mancini, Black, Alec McCurry and juniors Brady Harris and Paul Trick each had one single, Cole McCurry also driving home one run.
Hamilton Township starter David Brickey took the loss, allowing seven earned runs, 11 hits and two walks while striking out two in 3 1/3 innings. Nate Burton pitched the final 2 2/3 frames, allowing a hit and two walks with three strikeouts while going 2 for 4 with two singles and two RBIs.