No. 1 Hurricane rolls past Nitro 5-1
NITRO, W.Va. -- It was a little bit more of the same across the board Wednesday night at Brandon Matthew Sneed Field.
Hurricane got yet another solid pitching effort as Riley Metz fired a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts to spark a 5-1 victory over Nitro in a matchup of state-ranked teams.
Connor Adams gave the Redskins (11-2), the No. 1 team in the Gazette's Class AAA ratings, all the offense they needed by launching a three-run home run in the top of the first inning.
No. 6 Nitro also took the same path it's followed much of the season - but unfortunately, that meant a lack of runs. The Wildcats (6-4) have tallied just six runs in their four losses and won another game 1-0.
Nitro received even more bad news when freshman catcher Matt Jewell suffered a broken bone in his hand in the top of the first when Tate Brock's bat connected with his glove hand, resulting in a catcher's interference call. Jewell is expected to be out a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks.
"I thought we came to play,'' said Hurricane coach Brian Sutphin. "Riley threw the ball well and was constantly throwing strike one. He did a good job of staying on task and staying on plan.''
After that eventful first inning - in which Hurricane grabbed a quick 4-0 lead and Nitro had to juggle its lineup following Jewell's injury - little happened in the run column. The Redskins finished the game 1 of 12 with runners in scoring position (Adams' blast) and Nitro went 0 of 7.
Nitro's defense held the fort at several junctures as center fielder Ethan Clark chased down seven fly balls, including one off the bat of Ace Estep that seemed primed to drive in at least two runs. Clark made an over-the-shoulder catch on the dead run at the base of the outfield fence and Hurricane's Tate Brock was doubled off second for not tagging on the play. The Redskins were retired 10 times by flies to the outfield.
"Anytime you jump out on top like that,'' Sutphin said, "you want to keep putting pressure on and having good at-bats. I thought we kind of got away from that plan in the middle part of the game. We got guys on and got them over into scoring position, but then . . . well, it's hard to put pressure on a defense if you hit the ball in the air.
"I think we established that their center fielder can catch it. I never dreamed he'd get to that one ball, and that was a chance to kind of break it open.''
With Metz working his magic - he issued only three walks, rang up six called third strikes and allowed one unearned run - all of Clark's glovework went for naught.
"I'm not worried too much about stats as an individual,'' said Metz, who shaved his ERA to 0.61. "I'm worried about team wins and if we win, stats don't matter.
"But I felt like I had [good stuff] and it progressively got better as I worked into my fastball and my offspeed. I kind of felt like [Justin] Verlander. I got better as it goes.''
Adams, the offensive hero, said he was looking for a first-pitch fastball from Nitro left-hander Kip Brewer when he came to the plate with two on and two out in a scoreless top of the first.
"I watched the first four at-bats,'' Adams said, "and I saw he was giving first-pitch fastballs and was trying to get ahead. Austin Hensley, actually, brought that to my attention, and I just acted on it.
"I had a good idea I had gotten enough of it, but I still sprinted out of the box just in case there was some wind out there.''
Two batters after Adams' homer, Hensley followed with an RBI double. Hurricane got its other run in the fifth on a dropped fly in the outfield with the bases loaded.
Nitro boarded its lone run in the fifth to make it 4-1 when Ryan McDonough scored from second on a one-out strikeout by Solomon Shamblin. The third strike got away from Brock, who wasn't able to nail Solomon at first and when the ball got away there, McDonough scored.
Wildcats coach Steve Pritchard had seen it all before as far as the lack of offensive punch.
"That's been it,'' Pritchard said. "If we had T-shirts with a theme this year, that would be our theme. That's exactly the way it's been for 10 games. It's just so happened our pitching has held us for six of them. It's that simple.''
Pritchard realizes his team has some shuffling to do after Jewell's injury. McDonough, one of the Wildcats' top pitchers, now must do the lion's share of the catching.
"It was a mess,'' Pritchard said. "You try to plan for everything. On Sundays we plan for the entire week, week and a half. But you can't plan on your backup catcher pitching [a couple of days] before your regular catcher breaks his hand. We just didn't have any choice but to bring in McDonough like that, and he has a few knee problems.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.