VAN WERT — Baserunners were easy to come by during Van Wert’s Western Buckeye League baseball game against Kenton on Tuesday night.
Runs, however, were a different story.
The Cougars scored on a balk, a wild pitch and a steal of home, and Hayden Maples made those runs stand up in a 3-1 Cougars win at Russell Fisher Field.
Van Wert’s offense looked to jump on Kenton righty Shawn Conover early and did just that. Jake Lautzenheiser rifled a single through the left side in the home half of the first before stealing second base and moving to third on a wild pitch.
TJ Reynolds worked a 4-pitch walk, then wasted little time in attempting to steal. Kenton chose to throw through to second base, where Reynolds was safe; the throw allowed Lautzenheiser to race home with the game’s first run.
Reynolds moved up on a ground ball, and he scored on Conover’s second wild pitch of the inning.
For a long time, it appeared those would be all the runs the Cougars would get against Kenton’s ace. After the walk to Reynolds, Conover retired seven straight Cougars before Reynolds singled with two outs in the third. He was then caught stealing.
Van Wert threatened in the fourth with a walk and a single, but stranded both runners on base.
On the opposite side, Cougar right hander Hayden Maples had similar early-game struggles to what Conover experienced. After he worked around a hit batsman to open the game, Maples allowed a run in the second thanks to a walk, another hit batter and a pair of singles.
In the Wildcat third, Kenton’s first three batters reached against Maples, but, as they did in the second, they lost a runner on the bases when Maples picked off Trent Richelderfer at first base. A couple of ground balls helped him escape the jam, which ended when Reynolds fielded Seth Creamer’s chopper in the hole and fired low to first base with two away. Nathan Temple came up with a sterling pick at the bag to save an error, and at least one run, to preserve the lead.
“Defensively, Nathan Temple had a huge game for us,” Van Wert coach Charlie Witten said. “He had two picks with two outs. If he doesn’t pick those and it gets by him, there’s another run or two. He had a huge game tonight, defensively.”
Van Wert took advtantage of Conover’s wildness again in the sixth and got a much-needed insurance run. Maples walked on four pitches with one out in the inning. He moved to second on a wild pitch, then to third – one batter later – on another. With two outs and a 1-2 count on Van Wert’s Lawson Blackmore, Maples danced away from third base, and Conover was called for a balk, making it 3-1, Van Wert.
While Maples had danced through raindrops early, he settled in and pitched very well after that. He got the Wildcats in order in the fourth, then pitched around a walk and an error in the fifth. He didn’t strikeout his first batter until the fifth, but then fanned the side in order in the sixth and caught Hunter Moore looking to open the top of the seventh. After a walk, Maples induced back-to-back ground balls to Blackmore at third base to end the game.
“That was the difference in the game: we had real good baserunning, and our defense kept them off the basepaths,” Witten said. “We had one pick-off, we caught a runner here at third base [in the second inning]. The combination of good baserunning and good defense helped us out tonight.”
Maples went the distance on 115 pitches. He allowed four hits and one run, earned. He walked four, hit two batters, and struck out five. Conover needed 94 pitches for his six innings. He allowed just three hits but walked four. All three Cougar runs were earned. Conover fanned five but uncorked six wild pitches and was called for one costly balk.
Hunter Moore cf 3-0-0-0, Kyle Orians 2b 3-0-0-0, Trent Reichelderfer 4-0-1-0Shawn Conover p 4-0-1-0, Cole Dearing 1b 1-0-1-0, Koby Rawlins dh (Luke Baird rf) 3-1-0-0, Seth Creamer 3b 2-0-0-0, Julius Tapia c 2-0-1-0 x-Chance Jacques ph 1-0-0-0, Garrett Thomas lf 2-0-0-1; Totals 25-1-4-1
VAN WERT 3
Jake Lautzenheiser 2b 3-1-1-0, TJ Reynolds ss 2-1-1-0, Hayden Maples p 2-1-0-0, Nathan Temple 1b 2-0-0-0, Lawson Blackmore 3b 2-0-0-0, James Acquaviva lf 3-0-1-0, Jalen McCracken cf 2-0-0-0, Ryan Hollingsworth dh (Keaton Brown rf) 2-0-0-0, Owen Treece c 2-0-0-0; Totals 20-3-3-0
E: Maples, Temple, Blackmore; SB: Reichelderfer, Lautzenehsier 2, Reynolds; CS: Reynolds (by Cnover/Tapia); PO: Reichelderfer (by Maples); HBP: Moore (by Maples), Thomas (by Maples); SAC: Orians, Rawlins; LOB: Ktn 9, VW 2; Time: 1:50
Kenton 010 000 0 - 1 4 0
Van Wert 200 001 x - 3 3 3
Conover (L) 6.0-3-3-3-4-5
Maples (W) 7.0-4-1-1-4-5
Balk: Conover; WP: Conover 6; Pitches-strikes: Conover 94-49, Maples 115-69