Independence has won games this spring with power hitting and dominant pitching, and on Thursday, the Blue Devils used another method to top visiting Berkshire, 9-2.
The Blue Devils scored nine runs on just five hits in improving to 6-1 on the year.
“I think this team found another way to manufacture runs today against a very good Berkshire team,” said Independence coach Jim Crooks. “That was exciting to see a new way that we could manufacture runs.”
Independence collected five hits compared to four for the Badgers and the Blue Devils also held an advantage in walks received with seven, compared to six for Berkshire.
It was the combination of walks, bunts, and clutch hits that made the difference.
“This is what we would call some good old-fashioned small baseball, getting some walks, picking up a base here, a bunt here or there, and then a big hit when we needed it,” Crooks said. “We’ve been able to do both this year; we’ve been able to put up 15-16 hits in a game and we’ve also been able to score nine runs on five hits. I think that’s a credit to the talent on this team.”
Independence scored one run in the bottom of the first when Mike Andryszczyk reached on an error, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a fielder’s choice.
Berkshire manufactured a run in the top of the second when Blake Jenkins was hit by a pitch and stole two bases and then scored on a groundout to tie the game.
The Badgers stole a page out of Independence’s playbook with a manufactured run in the third.
Jake Brown drew a two-out walk and Brian Brent was hit by a pitch. Jenkins then doubled home Brown to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead.
Independence responded with four runs in the fourth and fifth innings to seize control of the game.
Luke Pascarella drew a one-out walk to start the fourth-inning rally and Evan Beacher reached on a dropped third strike. Matt Richards then walked to load the bases and Pascarella scored on an error. Charlie McGreal reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Beacher and Andryszczyk recorded the only hit of the inning to score another run. Casey McGhee knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice to give the Blue Devils a 5-2 lead.
Ashton Lerz and Rory Corrigan led off the fifth with back-to-back doubles. Pascarella and Beacher both walked and Richards reached on a fielder’s choice. McGreal then walked before the Badgers recorded the final two outs of the inning.
Beacher picked up his first varsity pitching victory after allowing two earned runs on three hits with three strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings of work. Connor Blum and Andryszczyk pitched 1 2/3 and one inning each, respectively.
“To give up two runs against a good, experienced Berkshire team, Evan Beacher is a sophomore that made his varsity debut and he did a great job,” Crooks said. “He struggled a little bit early but he settled down. For a young guy making his first varsity experience, he did a great job of settling down.”
Berkshire dropped its second straight game this week but that isn’t something that should alarm Badger fans.
Berkshire’s opponents—Chagrin Falls and Independence—are a combined 15-2 this season.
“This is a tough week for us,” said Berkshire coach Nick Burzanko. “Starting with Chagrin Falls, who’s a well-coached and disciplined baseball team, and then same with Independence today, those guys come out and compete at a high level and expect to win every day. Our guys just have to understand that there are going to be ups and downs in a baseball season and you have to be able to have a short-term memory and build on the good things and learn from the bad things. I believe in our guys and the fight that they have inside of them.”
J.T. Bergmeier took a hard-luck loss on the mound. He allowed five earned runs on just four hits and fanned three. Jenkins allowed two runs on one hit and struck out one in two innings of work.
“The pitchers battled today,” Burzanko said. “We struggled to throw strikes at times and allowed a handful of walks and I always say to our pitchers that we can’t defend the walk and it came back to bite us in those two big innings. We let guys get on and then when balls were hit in play, we made some bad decisions with the baseball that allowed for big innings. I felt our guys threw well, but we didn’t play behind our staff today.”
Jack Jacobs recorded two of Berkshire’s four hits while Jenkins and Chris Groudle were responsible for the other two.
Independence hosts Lutheran West on Friday while Berkshire will travel to Struthers on Saturday to play Columbiana and Ursuline.
“The goal is to just compete,” Burzanko said. “You feel a lot different about a game when you come out and compete your butt off and can live with the results. We will see what we’re made of in the next week heading into May. I think the guys can be up to the challenge, but it’s ultimately up to them as a group.”