Nate Nixon had an outstanding start, throwing six innings striking out nine, scattering three hits and walking just two while giving up one earned run before giving way to reliever Ezra Winkle. Winkle was the hard luck loser even though he was nearly as good, striking out four and giving up just two hits in four innings of relief, both those in the 10th and decisive inning.
“We had chances,” said Plymouth head coach Ryan Wolfe. “We had opportunities early in the game to extend the lead and we didn’t do it. We had guys on base in scoring position late in the game too. We made pitches in key spots to get out of innings as well. It was a good ball game, unfortunately we came out on the losing end.”
The Pilgrims scored both their runs in the second on three straight hits by Grant Stukenborg, Noah Pesak and an RBI single by Nate Nixon that pushed across the second run. Plymouth was able to load the bases before the end of the inning but Jeremy Drudge struck out to end the threat.
Plymouth left runners in scoring position with less than two outs in the third, fourth, seventh, eighth and 10th, but couldn’t push a single run across for the win. Once again, Memorial pitchers Nolan Grose and Justin Walters struck out 13 Pilgrim batters. Walter struck out 10 of the 20 hitters he faced coming on in relief in the fifth.
Memorial won the game when Walter led off the 10th with a double and scored on an RBI single by Dylan Pressler, who had struck out in his four previous trips to the plate.
The top of the Plymouth lineup continues to be in a three-game funk that started last Friday night at NorthWood.
“I thought there when we had guys on base with the middle of our lineup, we had a chance there and that’s tough,” said Wolfe. “You have to find a way to fight through some of those things. The last three conference games we haven’t put runs on the board like we had earlier and you just have to find a way to fight through that mentally – find something – whether it’s a bunt or a bloop single to get you out of that funk.”
The positive is that in spite of a collective slump by some key Plymouth hitters, the Pilgrims are still finding ways to be in position to win games. Pitching and defense have been a premium.
“We have a shot to win. We’re right there and we’re still getting great outings from our pitchers,” said Wolfe. “They are giving us a chance to win which is what they are supposed to do and we’ll find a way to get some more runs across.
“Early on, the ball was looking like a basketball coming in there and now it’s looking like a golf ball,” he said. “We’ll go back to practice tomorrow; we aren’t going to change a whole lot, you don’t revamp your whole system you continue to go up there with good approaches and we’ll find a way to get some hits.”
The Pilgrims (8-6, 4-4) will have to recover quickly as they will be on the road to Dunlap on Friday to take on Concord in another NLC battle.
Elkhart Memorial 3, Plymouth 2
Plymouth 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2-7-3
Elk. Mem. 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 3-7-0
WP – Justin Walter. LP – Ezra Winkle. 2B – Justin Walter (EM).