Cody Burton went the distance on the mound for North, scattering five singles and racking up nine strikeouts to help the Bull Dogs edge out Columbus East, 3-1, on a warm, sun-soaked Saturday afternoon to capture the Lou Giovanini Tournament, hosted by the Olympians.
East junior Will Anderson was just as impressive on the mound, but found himself the tough-luck loser as the O’s were hurt by a pair of untimely miscues that enabled North to plate the difference on offense.
The Bull Dogs (7-1-1) reached the championship contest after thumping Muncie Central, 10-0, in five innings. The Olympians (6-3) also advanced with a shutout win, putting away East Central, 4-0.
“This was a good day for us and a great (championship) game,” said North coach Ben McDaniel. “East is a heck of a team and we’re excited to get a win against a quality team.”
North struck early against the hosts after Devin Mann drew a leadoff walk and motored to third when Anderson’s pickoff attempt got past first baseman Conner Roberts. Brice McDaniel brought home Mann one out later with a deep fly ball to center field.
East was in position to answer back in the opening inning after Christian Wichman reached on a throwing error and moved to second following a sacrifice bunt from Takahiro Yamada. Unfortunately for the O’s, the speedy senior catcher was cut down after Mann made up for his miscue by scooping up Cam Curry’s hard grounder and whirled to third, instead of gunning down Curry at first.
“We played aggressive and came up with some big plays,” said McDaniel. “Our goal is to try to always score in the first inning and put pressure on our opponents.”
North scored another unearned run in the fourth inning in similar fashion. With one out, Burton was hit by a pitch and gave way to courtesy runner Josh Hogan, who stole second base and then scored moments later after a line drive by Hunter Liggett glanced off Robert’s glove.
The Bull Dogs had just one hit through five innings before tacking on three in the sixth against Anderson, who finished with a trio of strikeouts.
“We’ve got to make better plays on defense when given the opportunity,” said East coach Jon Gratz. “Offensively we had way too many pop-ups.”
The Olympians, who also had just one hit through four innings, finally broke through against Burton in the fifth.
Nick Andrie, who hit into a fielder’s choice, moved into scoring position following a walk to Wichman, and then raced home on a sharp single by Yamada. The O’s were looking to keep the momentum going with two runners on base, but Burton snuffed out the action by striking out Curry.
Burton also registered an inning-ending strikeout the next inning to leave two more East runners on base, and then closed out the contest by again striking out Curry after Yamada slapped his second single of the game.
“He kept us off balance throughout most of the game,” Gratz said about Burton. “He did a nice job pitching, but we’ve got to be more patient.”
Ahead just 2-1, the Bull Dogs answered East with an insurance run in the top of the sixth when Burton cranked a one-out double and then watched as, again, courtesy runner Hogan stole a base and scored on a hit by Liggett.
“We’ll see North again later in the season and expect another good game,” said Gratz.
“This win was a big boost for us,” said McDaniel. “East is a talented team and knowing we’ll play again later will only make things harder for us the next time.”
The Bull Dogs lead Muncie Central just 2-0 through four innings before erupting for eight runs in the fifth to bring out the 10-run mercy rule.
Canaan Baum had the bit hit in the big inning for North, blasting a walk-off 3-run homer to close out the contest.
Meanwhile, Jon Cox was also big on the mound for the Bull Dogs as he limited the Bearcats to only one hit, while striking out five.
Dominant pitching was also the name of the game for East as senior Peyton Gray notched 11 strikeouts in his complete-game performance against East Central
Curry ripped a double and scored for the O’s in the fourth inning, while Anderson drove in a pair of runs with a base hit in the fifth inning.