DELPHOS — It’s been a while since area high school baseball fans have heard the sound of the ball hitting the bat, or the sound of a fastball smacking the leather of a catcher’s mitt.
On Saturday, Lima Central Catholic and Delphos St. John’s met up at Stadium Park in the season opener for both squads.
LCC got a few more smacks of the bat in the seventh inning, en route to a hard-fought 5-4 victory against St. John’s.
After St. John’s claimed a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, LCC responded with two runs in the top of the seventh to reclaim the lead, and then hung on in the bottom of the seventh for the win.
Senior Ross Otto — who came in to relieve LCC starting pitcher freshman Billy Bourk in the sixth — shut the door in the bottom of the seventh to secure the win for the Thunderbirds.
“We definitely could have swung the bat better, but we did enough,” LCC head coach John Schnieders said. “I’m just really proud of these kids, after losing last year (season stopped because of COVID-19 pandemic). We do have some guys who played two years ago; but by and large, like everyone else, it’s a bunch of new kids coming out here and playing varsity baseball for the first time.”
Bourk was cruising right along for the T-Birds. The lanky right-hander allowed just one run through the first four innings. However, in the home half of the fifth, Bourk scattered three hits en route to a big three-run inning for St. John’s. The Blue Jays led 4-3.
Bourk ended the day with 11 strikeouts and two walks, while giving up four runs on five hits. He tossed a total of 86 pitches in his varsity debut.
“(He showed) incredible poise,” Schnieders said about Bourk. “I think he fatigued there in that long fifth inning. But all and all, he’s played a lot of baseball (coming up through the ranks). He’s pretty polished for a freshman, and obviously has a lot of ability. We’re very excited for him.”
Bourk also got it done with the bat, going 3 for 4 with two RBI.
Otto took over pitching duties for LCC in the sixth. Otto struck out two in his two innings of work.
“We found a way to scratch out a couple runs (in the seventh),” Schnieders said. “We also bring in a senior in relief (Otto), who is pitching in a high-pressure situation in his first varsity appearance. He gets the job done against their three best hitters.”
In the seventh for LCC, freshman Carson Parker (2 for 3) had a single. Gus Cira (2 for 3) had a single. Bourk had a sacrifice fly that plated a run. Then, Connor Gephart (1 for 3) drove in the go-ahead run with a bloop single to left field.
Quintel Peoples (1 for 3) smacked a solo home run for LCC in the third to give LCC an early 2-0 lead.
For St. John’s (0-1), Brady Kerner got the starting nod on the pitching mound. Kerner worked five innings before giving way to Curtis Mueller. Kerner threw a total of 75 pitches.
Kerner gave up three runs on six hits, while striking out four and walking just one batter.
Gavin Fittro and Mueller each had two hits for the Blue Jays on Saturday.
“It was a back-and-forth game,” Schnieders said. “I told our guys, ‘It’s like you can’t get too high or too low’. Throughout the course of the baseball game, I felt, emotionally, that we stayed steady throughout the whole thing. And we needed to, because as they came back and made their run in the bottom of the fifth, our guys still had the confidence that they can put it together. Our bottom of the lineup did that in the seventh inning. I’m really proud of the guys.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.