LIMA — It was all about the pitch count in Minster’s 10-2 win over Lima Central Catholic in a battle of state-ranked baseball teams Friday night.
The patient Wildcat batters worked Thunderbird starter Brendan Stolly throughout the game and eventually wore him down and made a close game, 5-1, going into the fifth, into a blow out when Minster scored five runs in the sixth to open up a 10-1 cushion going into the final two frames.
Minster, ranked sixth in Division IV, improves 13-5 for the season and LCC, ranked ninth D-IV, falls to 10-4 for the year.
Minster head coach Mike Wiss said he was happy with the way his batters battled in their plate appearances.
“I was happy how we fought in some at bats,” Wiss said. “We raised Stolly’s pitch count a little bit early in the first three innings and got a couple of doubles in the gap at the right time to extend innings. I was pleased with some of our at bats tonight.”
Wiss added that the team has learned in its tournament success that if you raise the pitch count early the opposing team’s breaking ball doesn’t bite as much.
LCC head coach John Schnieders agreed that Stolly’s high pitch count played a big role in the loss.
“They did good job of really grinding out at bats against Brendan and getting his pitch count up,” Schnieiders said. “We failed to make some basic fundamental plays behind our guy and really didn’t execute when we had early opportunities to score. It might be a different game if did those things.”
The top of Minster’s lineup did most of the damage in the first three innings when the Wildcats capitalized on walks and aggressive base running to garner the early lead.
Minster lead-off man Jack Olberding was the catalyst in the first and third when Minster would score two runs in each of those two frames. Olberding opened the game with a walk, followed by a base hit by Alex Lehmkuhl.to put runners at first and second. Jack Heitbrink’s single plated Olberding and then Lehmkuhl would slide home on a double steal play.
The third inning opened the same way the first did with Olberding drawing a base on balls followed by a single from Isaac Schmiesing. A wild pitch allowed Olberding to score his second run of the game. Lehmkuhl followed with a single to put Schmeising at third and he would also score on a wild pitch to notch the second run of the inning.
After setting down the Wildcats in order in the third, Stolly began to tire in the fourth when Minster scratched out a run in the fourth and in the firth, and his pitch count hovering around 90 was tagged for five runs after walking two and giving up four hits in the frame.
While Stolly was being worked, his counterpart, Noah Enneking was utilizing his breaking ball to quell the LCC bats. The righty pitcher, who gave up a run in the first and one in the sixth, kept LCC from producing big innings.
In the fourth, LCC threatened when LCC got two runners on with one out but Enneking induced a fielder’s choice and then got a fly out to get out of the jam.
LCC threatened in the sixth when Derek Jennings opened the inning with a double and was brought home when Matt Heider singled and then moved to second on the throw home. Brayden O’Dell followed with a hot smash to the second baseman, Lehmkuhl, who bobbled the ball. Heider tried to come home on the throw and was gunned down by Lehmkuhl to erase the possible run. Despite another hit in the inning, LCC would not score again and Enneking escaped a possible big inning.
Offensively for Minster Lehmkuhl was 2 for 3 with two RBI and two runs scored and Olberding went 1 for 2 with an RBI, three runs scored and a stolen base.
Enneking pitched six innings and scattered six hits while fanning six and walking none.
“I thought Noah was ahead of batters a lot,” Wiss said. “You could seen his off-speed stuff was a good thing.”
The loss is LCC’s second straight and Schnieders said his team is in a funk right now.
“We haven’t played very well the last couple of days and we are doing a lot of fundamental things wrong right now, Schnieders said. “We need to refocus ourselves a little bit as the tournament approaches.”
Jose Nogueras can be reached at 567-242-0468.