Don’t look now, but Delaware Hayes is heating up.
The Pacers, who suffered a slim 2-1 setback at the hands of the Golden Eagles Tuesday afternoon, bounced back nicely to end the week, dropping Big Walnut 9-2 Thursday before rolling past Liberty 10-3 Friday. Making the back-to-back wins even more impressive was the fact both came on the road.
Delaware Hayes (6-3, 2-3 OCC) erupted for five runs in the top of the sixth inning to seal the league win over the Eagles.
Coach Ryan Montgomery’s Pacers grabbed control of things with a little small ball. They took advantage of three bunts to open the sixth inning. Colin Reed beat out a perfect bunt down the third base line to get things started and back-to-back bunts by the next two hitters loaded the bases.
With the bases jammed, Hayes went to work.
Jake South grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Reed, beating the throw to first to load the sacks once again. Greg Suber then dropped in an RBI single to right before, with two out and the bases still loaded, Gaige Linville walked to plate South. Noble Moore then reached on an error with Suber scoring, Reed walked to plate Sweeney, and the Pacers were up 9-2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning.
“We weren’t getting the job done in the early innings,” Montgomery said. “That’s when I decided to play little ball and put some pressure on the Big Walnut defense … I think we were pretty successful.”
The Pacers, who trailed the Golden Eagles 2-1 after four innings, scored three runs in the top of the fifth to take 4-2 lead. Ulmer started things with with a double and came around to score when Big Walnut catcher Kyle Duncan fielded South’s bunt and threw it into right field, allowing Ulmer to score. After South was caught stealing, Suber and Sweeney followed with singles, advancing to second and third on a wild pitch with both eventually coming home on wild pitches.
After Hayes took a 1-0 lead in the first via singles by Ulmer and South and a Golden Eagle error, Big Walnut answered with two runs in the bottom of the second inning. Brayden Shepherd led off with a single to deep short and Ryan Grieser drew a one-out walk. BW executed a double steal to put runners at second and third and, with two out, Mike Blackburn reached on an error with Shepherd scoring to tie the game at 1-1. After Nick Moser walked on four pitches, Tarney was hit by a pitch to plate Grieser.
Ulmer led Hayes at the plate, going 3 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored. South collected 2 hits in 3 trips with a double, a run and a run batted in; Suber contributed 2 hits in 4 at bats with 2 runs and an RBI; Reed was 2 for 3 with a run, a walk and RBI; and Josh Daughenbaugh was 2 for 4.
Left-hander Jackson Boger started for Hayes and worked the first 6 1/3 innings, giving up two second-inning runs, both unearned. He allowed only 2 hits, both by Brayden Shepherd — a lead-off single in the second and a one-out infield single in the third. He walked five, hit one and struck out two.
“Jason gave us 6-plus innings of strong pitching,” Montgomery said.”He did a good job shutting Big Walnut down after they scored two runs in the second inning … he faced only 17 batters over the final five innings.”
Southpaw Braden Schmidt came on in relief in the seventh with one on and one out and ended the game on two fly ball outs.
Shepherd made the start for BW, working 4 2/3 innings and allowing 4 runs, 2 earned, on 8 hits, 1 base on balls, 2 hit batsmen and 3 strikeouts. Brandon Daniels, who came on with two out in the fifth, worked 1 inning giving up 5 runs, 2 earned, on 3 hits and 2 walks to go with 1 strikeout. Grieser, who recorded the final out in the sixth, threw the final 1 1/3 innings, allowing no runs on 1 hit.
Friday’s non-league win over Liberty was the icing on the cake for Montgomery, who played at Liberty before serving as an assistant coach under Matt Lattig and current coach Ty Brenning.
The Pacers controlled things from start to finish, plating a run in the second and another in the third before sealing the deal with back-to-back four-run innings in the fourth and fifth.
The Patriots (9-4, 4-1 OCC) responded with a run in the bottom of the third to make it a tight 2-1 game heading into the fourth, but couldn’t keep up down the stretch.
South sparked Hayes’ 11-hit attack, finishing with three hits and three RBIs in the win. Ulmer was also steady, finishing with two knocks and two batted in.
Cameron Comer led Liberty with two hits in the loss.
Schmidt, who came on in relief of Suber in the third, earned the win on the mound, tossing five solid innings while striking out five. AJ Kullman suffered the setback for the Patriots, lasting just three innings.