North pitchers Nate Williams and Blake Stoughton weren’t overpowering.
But they powered the Wildcats to a Mississippi Athletic Conference sweep at crosstown rival West on Thursday night, helping North win by scores of 4-3 and 2-0.
“They’re both good about being down in the zone and being around the plate,” North head coach Cory Wachal said of his two starting pitchers, who combined to strike out just four batters in the twin bill. “They’re not going to strike out a lot of guys, but our guys want to play defense for them because they know they’re going to get a lot of ground balls. Usually they’re not hit too hard. But if you can be around the plate as a high school pitcher and not walk guys, if you pitch to contact you can have a lot of success.”
After hitting three West batters and walking another in the first inning of the opening game, giving up two runs in the process, Williams settled down and allowed just one run the rest of the way. He scattered six hits and gave up three runs, two earned, as he improved to 3-0 on the mound this season.
“I thought after that first inning Nate did a good job of settling down,” Wachal said. “We hadn’t seen those control issues from him. We just kind of let him throw through it, and once he got through the first, he did a good job of throwing strikes and being around the plate.”
Stoughton followed that with a gem in the nightcap. He threw a two-hit shutout, earning his first victory of the season.
“I was just throwing strikes out there,” said Stoughton, who retired the last 14 batters he faced. “It’s really easy when you know your defense is going to make plays for you. They were really there for me.”
North (5-5, 3-3 MAC) started the opening game with a bang, taking advantage of several West miscues to score three runs. Bryan Verdon was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and Justin Saskowski followed with a two-RBI single to left field.
West trailed by one run the entire contest but was never able to bring home the tying or go-ahead run.
“They were just pitching to contact, and we just didn’t have a good approach at the plate,” West head coach Scott Beatty said. “Right now we’re just not seeing the baseball well. We’ve got to continue to work. We’ve got to go back to practice, and we have to play tomorrow, but what we have to do is continue to try to get ourselves better.”
Saskowski’s two-out double to left drove in the first run of the second game in the fourth inning, and Williams added an RBI single in the fifth.
“We’ve been hitting the ball hard, but they just haven’t been falling for us,” Wachal said. “Tonight it was good to see that when we had guys in scoring position that we were able to get those hits and drive guys in. I think if we can get the hitting to be a little more consistent for us, we could be pretty good here in the next couple weeks.”
Although West (2-6, 1-3 MAC) lost both games, the Falcons also got solid performances from their starting pitchers. After giving up three runs in the first inning of the opening game, Alek Reed settled in and allowed just two hits the rest of the way while striking out nine. And Leo DeLaPaz, who entered Thursday night’s twin bill with an ERA of 17.18 on the season, allowed just two runs on six hits.
“We got two good outings from throwers tonight,” Beatty said. “The main thing is we’ve got to get better defensively. We’ve got kids who are inexperienced and playing, but there’s no excuse that we can’t fundamentally field the baseball. That’s killing us right now. It’s putting runners in scoring position and adding outs to the inning.”