COLUMBUS GROVE – Making plays at key moments in the game will usually give a baseball team a chance to win.
In Bluffton’s 6-4 Northwest Conference victory over Columbus Grove Monday night, the Pirates made the plays and got the key base hits, en route to the road win over the Bulldogs.
Bluffton pitcher Brett Rumer worked six innings, giving up four runs on six hits. The sophomore right-hander struck out eight, walked two and hit a batter. Trent Phillips moved over from his shortstop position to close out the seventh inning for the Pirates (7-4, 3-0 NWC).
Rumer received plenty of help as his team pounded 10 hits against Columbus Grove pitching. Bluffton’s defense, despite making two errors on the night, came through when it needed to, shutting the door on a couple Columbus Grove rallies.
Josh Verhoff started on the mound for Columbus Grove (6-6, 1-3). Verhoff worked six innings, before being lifted in the seventh. Verhoff gave up the six runs and 10 hits, while striking out five and walking three. Tanner Neu came in to pitch the seventh for the Bulldogs.
‘They came out and hit the ball hard in the first inning,” Bluffton coach Sam Fruchey said. “We were able to battle and get out of that inning and I think we settled down at the plate and on the mound.
“I think we got better at bats in the bottom of our order as the game went on …They really had a good game for us. As the game went on, we settled in at the plate and we were able to capitalize on some key situations.”
Columbus Grove led 1-0 after the first inning.
A leadoff triple by Riley Brubaker got the rally going for the Bulldogs. Reid Stechschulte followed with a single to center to bring Brubaker around to score.
However, Rumer was in control, setting down Columbus Grove in order in both the second and third innings.
“I think he was fine,” Fruchey said about Rumer. “I think he just made a couple mistakes (later in the game). To their credit, they hit the ball and we made some plays. I thought he (Rumer) did a good job of giving us a chance to win.”
Rumer threw 87 pitches in his six innings of work on Monday.
“I was getting a little tired,” Rumer said. “I just kept battling in there, trying to throw strikes and letting my defense do the work. And they came through for me.”
Bluffton took a 2-1 lead in the fourth, scoring two runs on three hits. Braden Skilliter had an RBI single and James Harrod moved another run across with a grounder to the right side of the infield.
In the fifth, Bluffton plated two more runs on four hits to extend the lead to 4-1. Tyler Belcher had the big hit for the Pirates, a double to center field that drove in a run.
Columbus Grove battled back in the home half of the fifth, scoring three runs on two hits to knot the game at 4 apiece. Verhoff (3 for 4) had a double to center that scored two runs.
However, Bluffton responded in the top of the sixth.
Austin Bricker (2 for 4) had an RBI single, while Chris McClain came through in the sixth with a double that scored a run, giving the Pirates the two-run lead for good.
Columbus Grove coach Cory King said his young team has to learn to be a little more consistent.
“You have to tip your hat to them. For the most part, we threw strikes and they hit it. They hit it where we weren’t, but they definitely out-executed us by far.”