Andrew Spencer went 3-for-3 at the plate and knocked in four runs and he also pitched five scoreless innings and struck out eight as Kirtland beat visiting Crestwood on Monday in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division opener for both teams.
With the win, Kirtland improved to 1-1 overall after Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Perry in the season opener.
“After Saturday’s game, we reminded the boys that our next two games are our number one priorities,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel. “They obviously got the message because they came out today and played great.”
The Hornets plated two runs in the bottom of the first inning on back-to-back singles by Reece VanArnhem and Anthony DeMarco, a Jonathan Withrow sacrifice fly, and a Spencer single.
A 10-run third put the game out of reach.
Withrow drew a leadoff walk, Adam Knaak was hit by a pitch, and Spencer singled to load the bases with no outs. Luke Chuko then singled home two runs and the Gage Sullivan followed with a two-run single.
VanArnhem singled home Sullivan and DeMarco added another hit. Back-to-back errors set the table for Spencer, who doubled home two runs with two outs. Chuko hit another single that scored Spencer for the 10th run of the inning.
Kirtland added three more runs in the bottom of the fourth.
DeMarco walked, Mason Sullivan singled and Knaak drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Spencer walked to score the first run, Chuko singled home Sullivan, and then Gage Sullivan grounded out to score the final run of the game.
“It was fantastic to see the improved mindsets at the plate today,” Smrdel said. “We always talk about being patiently aggressive, so attacking fastballs in the zone only, while working counts to try to get free bases. We got nine free bases today with walks and hit batsmen, and when that happens it usually leads to good results.”
Spencer is making the most of his opportunity to swing the bat as he’ll focus on pitching in college.
“Today was fun at the plate,” he said. “This season will be my last time getting a chance to hit, so I have nothing to lose. I am always a confident player and aggressive at the plate.”
He was even more impressive on the hill where he had a no-hitter going until the top of the fifth when Crestwood’s Jimmy Peters reached on an infield single.
Until Peters reached safely, Spencer had retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced with a four-pitch walk the only other blemish on his stat line.
“Everything was working well today,” Spencer said. “My command was very good with all pitches and I pounded the strike zone. My personal goal is 70-percent strikes. Today I was at 69-percent. I was very efficient throwing 52 pitches in five innings. Strike ones are very important to set up the hitter because when I have three pitches with great command, they won’t know what is coming.”
DeMarco, Chuko, and Gage Sullivan each had two hits for the Hornets and Chuko knocked in three runs.
The Hornets and Red Devils meet in Crestwood on Tuesday for the final game of the series.