Boys split double header with Bears

Norv and Mary Coblentz · Wednesday, July 2, 2014
The Comets' baseball team split a double-header with West Branch on the road June 27. They lost the first game in five innings 12-2. In the second game, senior Brett Becker pitched a one-hit shutout for the win.

"We didn't give up free bases (in the second game), and we gave up free bases the first game," West Liberty Head Coach Troy Wulf said. "We got behind. Tanner (Mueller) was struggling with his control a little bit. We're not good enough offensively to get behind five or six runs and come back. Defensively, we didn't play bad.

"(In the second game) we played a little small ball."

The Comets fell behind early in the first game and didn't score until the top of the fifth. Austin Newton led off the fifth with a four-pitch base on balls. Mueller hit into a fielder's choice, but a West Branch error put two Comets on base. The next batter flied out. A single to left field by Becker loaded the bases. Sergio Zamora was hit by a pitch, and Newton scored. Dylan VanDusen walked, and Mueller scored. The next batter fouled out, and Becker was tagged out at home trying to score. The score was 10-2, but the Bears scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to end the game at 12-2.

"First game, we had a lot of fire when we came out right away," West Branch Head Coach B.J. Rios said. "Alex (Hamer) did a great job on the mound, threw strikes, got them out quick, then the offense took off.

"Second game, they hurt us today. We had three or four ground ball plays that we probably should have made. We didn't. They took advantage and scored the runs. Becker did a heck of a job pitching. He kept us off-balance. He kept us guessing at every pitch. He did an excellent job today."

The second game was a pitchers' duel, and experience won out.

"I'm just trying to go out there and make pitches that are going to hit easy, routine plays to our young guys," West Liberty pitcher Becker said. "I'm pretty much trying to throw strikes, keep guys off the bases, because we are a young team. As a senior I have to make as few mistakes as possible.

"I'm staying more relaxed in there. I realize I don't have to throw as hard as I can every pitch. I can keep them on their toes with a breaking ball or two. That's really something I started to figure out mid-season. Keep them on their toes with a change in speed. That way you don't have throw as hard, work as hard on the mound."

Mueller led off the second game with a single to left field. The next batter grounded out, and Mueller advanced to second base. Becker singled to left field, scoring Mueller. The next batter popped out to the shortstop, and Becker was caught stealing to bring up the bottom of the second.

Becker struck out the first batter he faced, looking. The next batter grounded out to Bryce Esmoil at third base. The next batter walked. A bouncer past second base put runners at first and second, then Becker fielded a groundout and threw to VanDusen at first to end the inning.

Josh Walshire got a one-out single to left center field, and Joe Baker ran for him. The next batter hit into a fielder's choice, and Baker was forced out at second. A strikeout brought up the Bears' half of the inning.

Becker struck out the side, all three swinging to end the second inning. He threw just 11 pitches.

The Comets were retired in order in the top of the third on two groundouts and a strikeout.

In the bottom of the third, the first batter reached on an error. The next batter sacrificed the batter to second. Becker struck out the next two batters on a 1-2 and a 3-2 count to end the inning.

In the top of the fourth, Zamora reached on an error with one out. A groundout and a fly out brought up the bottom of the fourth. The first batter for the Bears walked. A groundout and two more strikeouts by Becker ended the inning.

The Comets scored an insurance run in the top of the fifth. Noah Feldman reached on an error to lead off. The next batter struck out. Michael Hartman hit a single to left center field after working the count full. The next batter flied out for the second out of the inning. Esmoil walked to load the bases. Becker struck out, but the West Branch catcher dropped the ball. Everyone was safe, and Feldman scored. The next batter grounded out to end the half-inning.

A fly out and two groundouts made it a fast Bears' half of the fifth inning. Going into the sixth, West Liberty led 2-0.

West Liberty went quietly in the top of the sixth on a groundout and two strikeouts. In the bottom of the sixth, West Branch had a lead-off double. Becker struck out the next batter, then Mueller made a nice leaping catch at shortstop for the second out. Another Becker strikeout ended the inning.

Mueller was the only Comet who made it on base in the seventh inning. He got a two-out base on balls, but the next batter struck out.

The first Bear grounded out to second base. The next reached on an error. A leaping catch off the mound by Becker robbed the Bears of a hit and maybe a run. The next Bear popped out to Walshire at catcher to end the game with a 2-0 West Liberty win.
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