The Pleasant Valley baseball team has made strides since the beginning of the season.
The proof is what the Spartans did to Davenport Assumption starting pitcher Daniel Powers and the rest of the top-ranked team in Class 3A in the opening game of a Mississippi Athletic Conference doubleheader on Monday.
Pleasant Valley banged out 15 hits and roughed up Powers, a Kansas State signee, to snag an 11-6 victory on the Knights' home field. Assumption battled back in the nightcap as aggressive base-running by Jayce Levy in the seventh inning led to a 3-2 win and a split of the series.
While the Spartans (9-9 overall, 4-4 MAC) did not make up any ground in the conference race, they did help rein in the Knights (13-5, 6-2) for North Scott, which swept Clinton. The Lancers and Knights both sit at 6-2 in the MAC race.
In the opening game, the visitors got two-run homers from Evan Crawford and CJ Hoskins, and Max Slavens and Ely Adams also each drove in a pair of runs as Powers did not make it out of the fifth inning. Jack Young and Peyton Lindmark also drove in runs with singles as Powers allowed eight earned runs on 12 hits.
He walked three batters and also uncorked three wild pitches. Assumption catcher Jayson Willers actually made several good saves on other wild deliveries from Powers, who struggled with his command the entire game.
Powers consistently fell behind hitters and basically had to groove fastballs and the Spartans were ready. Pleasant Valley coach Bill Sandry liked his team's approach to Powers. Sandry added that without the tough-luck loss in the second game and also a loss to North Scott last week when PV led late, his team could have been on top of the conference standings.
"Our kids and our team are getting better every time out," Sandry said. "We are a way better baseball team than we were a few weeks ago. When you have difficult times, your team either falls apart or you develop. Our kids have chosen to learn and develop better habits and it is showing."
Fundamental habits were not on display for the home team as Assumption uncharacteristically committed four errors and made several base-running mistakes that undermined any chance of a comeback in Game 1. The Spartans' starting pitcher in the first contest, Kyle Stoddard, did a solid job for four innings to get the victory, allowing two earned runs.
The Knights did get RBIs from Noah Wieman, Seth Adrian, Jeremy McIntosh and Levy while Nick Gottilla also had a two-run triple in the defeat.
The nightcap saw a good pitching duel between the Knights' Julien Broderson and Spartans sophomore Andrew Doyle. Broderson went six innings allowing two earned runs while Doyle allowed just three hits although one of those was a crushed home run by Seth Adrian in the fourth inning that gave Assumption the lead at 2-1.
Hoskins tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth inning and he nearly gave the Spartans the lead when he sent a bomb into right-center field that just hit near the top of a high fence. His double chased home pinch-runner Will Christophersen to tie the score.
But in the seventh, Levy reached on a swinging bunt, then took second on a walk to Nick Gottilla to set up a dramatic ending. With an 0-2 count on Adrian and two outs, Knights coach Billy Argo took a chance and had Levy attempt to steal third base.
Lindmark attempted to throw out Levy but his throw was high and got away, allowing Levy to score the winning run.
"I was suprised they stole on 0-2 (count) and in hindsight the catcher should have held it but, again, you learn and (Lindmark) is going to make that throw 99 out of 100 times," Sandry said. "I have all the confidence in (Lindmark) and the game is not defined by one play."
Argo said it was a good way to bounce back in the nightcap after what transpired in the opener.
"There are things we need to address but we got a solid start from (Broderson) which gave us a chance," he said of Game 2. "Neither team was really killing the ball and that's why I kind of rolled the dice and sent Levy."