Blackmore’s arm, bat lead Cougars past Elida

ELIDA — Van Wert junior Lawson Blackmore got the better of his opponent on Friday night at Elida’s Ed Sandy Field, both on the mound and in the batter’s box. Blackmore tossed a 3-hit shutout and clubbed a solo home run that ignited a 3-run seventh inning rally to help the Cougars to a 4-0 Western Buckeye League win.

“He’s definitely one of our hardest workers,” Van Wert coach Charlie Witten said of Blackmore. “He has been struggling throwing strikes lately, but we had a good bullpen session early this week, just working on a couple of things. He made the adjustments and you could see the results.”

Blackmore did not walk a batter in his 99-pitch effort. He struck out 11.

For six innings, Blackmore and Elida right hander Luke Berger were locked in a pitcher’s duel. Blackmore then provided his club with a little insurance, and a lot of momentum, when he jumped on a Berger fastball to lead-off the seventh inning with a solo homer over the left field fence.

“That was huge,” Witten said. “How would we have liked to have a 1-0 lead with two runners on base in that [home half of the] seventh inning? Anytime you can add runs on, it does two things: not only does it get you a little cushion for the next inning, but it kind of deflates the other team; I think we saw some of that.”

That deflation was evidence by Berger plunking the next Cougar batter, James Acquaviva, with a breaking ball. With pinch-runner Keaton Brown aboard, Darius Eddins fell behind 0-2 while trying to bunt. He then came back to work a walk and put two runners on base. Later in the inning, Holden Willingham dropped a perfectly-executed suicide squeeze bunt to make it 3-0. The Cougars added another run on Jake Lautzenheiser’s RBI single.

The extra runs proved helpful for Blackmore and the Cougars. After Blackmore retired the first two batters of the inning, a pair of Bulldog base hits put two runners aboard. Blackmore then recorded the final out on a fly ball to end the game.

“We just did a lot of things right offensively and defensively,” Witten said. “We’re having fun now.”

The Cougars are off this weekend before a stretch of six games in six days next week, including a Saturday doubleheader.