It was literally the tale of two games as Memorial starter Justin Walter was sailing through three not giving up a hit until the fourth when Plymouth bunched some free bases and some hits together to chase Walter with a seven spot.
“I was thinking as the game ended it was two totally different ballgames,” said Plymouth head coach Ryan Wolfe. “I was thinking maybe we needed to bunt for a hit or something. He (Justin Walter) was fantastic early. I don’t know what changed mentally or whatever but when you put up a seven there in the middle of the game that’s huge.”
Walter lead off the inning sriking out Noah Pesak but it went straight downhill from there as he hit Ezra Winkle gave up a single to Grant Stukenborg and then loaded the bases by walking Dyllon Pavey. Nate Nixon drove home the first Plymouth run with a swinging bunt that Walter made a great play on to the plate but didn’t get the call, leaving the bases loaded with just one out.
“If he gets an out anywhere that changes the inning because then we still have runners on but there’s two outs and we only have one out to work with and that’s big,” said Wolfe. “That’s why we want our guys hustling no matter what, and they were and we were able to get that run.”
It all started unravel as Benji Nixon stepped to the plate and delivered a two run triple to the center field wall and Jeremy Drudge capped the big inning with a monster two run homer to right.
“That was huge,” said Wolfe of Nixon’s shot. “We scored two runs and it was a deep breath when he hit that ball. We have some guys that can really make contact especially the second or third time through the lineup.”
Drudges homer added a second deep breath.
“He finally saw a fastball,” said Wolfe. “That’s what the middle of our lineup can do. You give us some hit batters, walks and free bases we can get some doubles and triples and put runs on the board.”
Cam Dennie came on and finished a strong outing striking out 11 and not walking a hitter in the game. The second number the big one in the Plymouth scheme of things.
“That’s one thing,” said Wolfe. “We haven’t walked very many people and that’s something we take pride in. You may give up a double or triple or homer but if you don’t put anybody on in front of them they might score one run. We want to prevent the big inning and those freebies are what make that happen. You saw that with us. It leads to a big inning.”
The new pitch count rule becomes a factor as any amount of pitches over 80 requires three day’s rest for a pitcher. If Wolfe had notions of starting Dennie at Warsaw on Friday he had to keep him under 100 pitches. It was a decision the coaching staff didn’t have to make.
“My idea was 85 was the limit, he was 84 after six (innings) and he said he wanted to go back out there and that’s why he went back out there,” said Wolfe. “We had Chuy (Jesus Luva) ready and if anybody got on we were going to him. This is nothing new for us. We’ve always cared for our guys arms and I don’t want them to be a number. That’s for us to decide. The depth of our pitching staff is going to allow us to do some things and it will work itself out.”
Plymouth is now 4-1 and 1-0 in the NLC. Memorial is 4-4. Plymouth will play Tuesday night at Bill Nixon Field as NLC teams hoping to beat the rain forecast for Wednesday will move their dates up where possible. Concord is free Tuesday and will make the trip to Plymouth a day early for their battle.
Elkhart Memorial 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 4-6-2
Plymouth 0 0 0 7 1 1 x 9-7-2
WP – Cam Dennie (1-1). LP – Justin Walter (1-1). HR – Brett Wilson (EM), Jeremy Drudge (P). 3B – Benji Nixon (P). 2B – Wilson (EM), Dennie 2 (P).