Senior Jase Phillips hurled six strong innings, leaning on his electric fastball to strike out 10 batters and only allow a pair of hits. The Hurricanes were coming off back-to-back losses, their last win coming in Phillips’ most recent start. Perhaps soon his teammates will be calling him “Ace Phillips,” rather than Jase.
The Pounders got a solid outing from their starter Keaton Hesson, but four errors and as many walks gave East Hamilton enough opportunities to drive in a handful of runs and win it by a 5-0 final. This one looked like a classic pitchers’ duel through five innings, but Phillips’ dominance kept the Hurricanes in the driver’s seat and their three runs in the final two frames put this one away.
“He’s (Phillips) got an overpowering fastball against a lot of teams he faces,” said East Hamilton head coach Matt Ramsey. “I think we probably threw four or five off-speed pitches out of the 80 or so pitches we threw. Obviously, his fastball is electric and that was exactly what we needed,” said Ramsey.
In a game that was originally scheduled to be at East Hamilton, Central High School’s home field watched the sun set beyond the right field foul pole on an evening that offered some of this spring’s most comfortable baseball weather yet. The bright sunshine sliced through the gentle breeze to illuminate the game’s first three innings where, though East Hamilton threatened, neither team was able to gain an advantage.
The Hurricanes finally broke through on Hesson, who unpredictably blended a four-pitch repertoire, when a Trey Crawford single drove in Jase Phillips who reached base twice. In the following inning, the Hurricanes looked like they might open the floodgates. After reaching on an error, catcher Grayson Maddox scored on a wild pitch, and with nobody out, East Hamilton loaded the bases with a single and two walks.
Not rattled in the slightest, Hesson promptly struck out three straight batters in the heart of the Hurricane lineup, the second two looking, and headed into the sixth inning only trailing by a pair.
“We had five backward K’s tonight,” said Ramsey. “Four punchouts with runners in scoring position. We’re always looking to be better with situational hitting, but we’re on the rise with our approaches at the plate for sure,” said Ramsey.
After a gutty fifth inning, Hesson lost command of the zone a bit and another Central error stung the pounders. After a wild pitch put two runners in scoring position, the ninth hitter Davis Whitener came up with the key base hit, shooting a two-run single into left-center field. The Hurricanes doubled their lead and after Central tried to put a rally together with a pair of no-out baserunners in their half of the inning, Phillips retired the next three in order to end his night and bring on the seventh inning.
“In the later innings, if I feel like I can’t blow it past guys and get a strikeout, I always know that I can get a ground ball or a pop fly somewhere and my team will be able to play behind me, have my back, and get the out,” said Phillips.
Jack McBryer closed out a scoreless final inning after a Maddox Bohannon sacrifice fly gave the visitors another insurance run, and the Hurricanes finished off the shutout to move to 3-1 in district play.
“We needed to get another one under our belt and get things rolling again,” said an upbeat Ramsey.
In a game where neither starting pitcher allowed an earned run, consequential Pounder miscues and key Hurricane execution made the difference.
The teams will match up again Tuesday afternoon where Central will look to find some offense, and East Hamilton will try to replicate today’s performance.
EAST HAMILTON 000 112 1 – 5
CENTRAL 000 000 0 – 0
Hesson, Brown (6) and Poythress; Phillips, McBryer (7) and Maddox.