Mary Catherine Cronin
A little drama in baseball never hurt anything.
The Hayes Pacers didn’t score until the sixth inning, but received a solid outing from senior pitcher Tyler Miller and pushed home three runs in the sixth to scramble past the visiting Westerville Central Warhawks 3-1 Tuesday afternoon at Fouts-Wood Field in Delaware.
“Tyler did an excellent job and our defense did a good job behind him,” Hayes coach Mike Yinger said. “We made a couple mistakes, but that’s going to happen. You have to remember it’s only the second week of the season. There is a lot more baseball to play, but it’s been fun so far.”
Miller surrendered an unearned run in the opening inning, but was strong throughout for Hayes (5-2), allowing just the run, five hits, one walk and four strikeouts in his complete-game victory.
Meanwhile, the Hayes offense struggled early against Westerville Central (7-2) starter Tyler Bertelsen, getting just four hits, a walk and a hit batsman through four innings.
The Pacers’ aggressive base running also seemed to cost them early. Freshman Noble Moore was thrown out at second trying to steal with one out and sophomore Jake South at the plate. South ripped a double to left field afterward.
“Those were strategic,” Yinger said. “When you have a 2-2 count on the nine-hole batter, you expect their pitcher to throw a fastball and your batter to hit the ball on the ground, so you try to get the runner in motion. Turns out he threw a curve ball and kind of stuck us, but give them credit. They got us.”
Hayes lost another potential tying run in the fourth when junior Alex Rafeld was thrown out trying for third by Westerville Central shortstop Dillon West, who sprinted to the outfield to track down a hit by sophomore Conner Ulmer and made a solid defensive play.
“We had a kid coming around second base with one out, so we tried to stretch him and get him to third with one out,” Yinger said. “It was just unfortunate their shortstop went out and made a fantastic throw.”
Hayes’ aggression would finally pay dividends in the sixth. Ulmer led off the inning with a double off the base of the fence in left, then scored when pinch hitter Colin Reed reached on a sacrifice bunt and took second on a throwing error by Warhawk catcher Sawyer Allen.
Senior Jake Wright then put another sacrifice bunt down the third base line, and Warhawk reliever Cameron Box threw the ball down the left-field line trying to catch pinch runner Austin Terry at third, allowing Terry to score and Wright to take second.
“We’re aggressive on the bases and we do play small ball,” Yinger said. “For a few innings, being aggressive caught up to us, but later in the game you have to keep playing your system. Most of the time, it works out for you.”
Wright went to third on a balk call, and sophomore Greg Suber drew a walk to put runners on the corners. One out later, South attempted to put down a sacrifice bunt, but the pitch from Box was out of the strike zone, and Wright was caught in a rundown between third and home. Wright still helped his team, though, as senior pinch runner Ethan Nichol was able to move from first to third on the play.
South drove the count to 3-1, then ripped a single to left field that plated Nichol.
“Jake had a situation where he didn’t get the squeeze down, and he knew we weren’t happy about that, but it’s part of the game,” Yinger said. “You’re not out, so continue playing the game, and he did that. That’s a huge lesson to learn.”
Central received a one-out double from Allen in the seventh, but Miller coaxed a pair of groundouts to strand Allen at third and end the game.
South and Ulmer led the Pacer offense, both going 2 for 3 with a double and South adding one RBI. Rafeld and Moore each went 1 for 3 with a single.
Box took the loss in relief, going two innings while allowing one earned run, two hits and two walks. Bertelsen allowed just the four hits and one walk while fanning three in four innings.
Allen and Connor Sitz each had a double for Westerville Central, while Matt Bracale, Connor Bush and Bobby Spiers had a single each.
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