It’s no exaggeration to say the longer the game went the stronger Defiance pitcher Jacob Howard got.
The numbers inside the Bulldogs’ 5-2 win over Shawnee in a match-up of two of the Western Buckeye League’s best baseball teams on Friday proved it.
After giving up two runs and loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the first inning, the junior left-hander limited Shawnee to two hits over the last 6 2/3 innings. And both of the runners on those hits were erased by double plays.
“I think he got sharper and they just played great defense. I thought we had some well-struck balls and their kids made plays on them,” Shawnee coach Chad Spencer said. “Their shortstop made a great falling catch on a ball that’s normally a single. That kid just D’d us up today.
“They don’t make mistakes and we had a couple of situations early in the game where I thought we probably could have executed a little better. It was just a great high school baseball game between two good teams,” he said.
Defiance (9-1, 4-0 WBL) took a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on two walks, a single a ground out and a throwing error.
Shawnee (9-2, 2-1 WBL) answered with two runs of its own in the bottom of that inning. Logan Maxwell led off by getting hit with a pitch, stole second and scored on a single by Sage Ebling. Jarin Bertke reached base on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on a single by Keaton Cooper.
Defiance coach Tom Held said, “We came out and got two (runs) and then Shawnee bounces back and had the bases loaded with one out and we got a couple big outs. He (Howard) was able to come back in the second inning and get a pretty good inning. And then he kind of settled in.
“He’s an off-speed, crafty lefty. He really battled and competed. And our infield offense was really good.
“He lives on the outer half (of the plate), throws a lot of change-ups and tries to make them put it in play. And our defense plays pretty well behind him,” he said.
Defiance committed only one error and Shawnee had four. Defiance shortstop Bradyn Shaw led the way defensively by being involved in eight of the Shawnee outs.
“We couldn’t get up the middle. He shut us down,” Spencer said. “I always tell the kids the teams that catch and throw the best win games and I think tonight they caught and threw a little bit better than us.”
Howard struck out two and and walked one in his complete game victory. Shawnee starter Jarin Bertke struck out six, walked three and gave up eight hits in six innings.
Camden Roth was 3 for 3 and drove in two runs for Defiance. Shaw was 2 for 3. Ebling went 2 for 3 for Shawnee.