Eagles beat Hawks in pitcher's duel

News-DemocratApril 5, 2014 

— It was the kind of chilly night that favors pitchers, and Columbia left-hander Josh Fleming took full advantage of it.

Fleming struck out 11 and allowed only one hit over six innings as the Eagles beat the Gibault Hawks 4-0 Friday night at GCS Ballpark, the home of the Gateway Grizzlies.

Fleming outdueled Gibault left-hander Zach Neff, who struck out 11 and gave up only five hits.

"Anytime it's chilly like this and you're facing the weather we have been facing lately, it's tough to hit, especially when you have two good pitchers throwing it in on your hands," Columbia coach Keith Jany said. "There were two quality pitchers out on the mound, so I don't if any weather is going faze either of those pitchers. They are going to come out and throw a great game no matter what the weather is like."

Both teams had to contend with some nippy conditions as the temperature dipped down to 43 degrees by the late innings.

"It's tough on the hitters when it's this type of weather and this type of wind," Gibault coach Andy Skaer said. "It's not easy on the arms either, but it does give a decided advantage to the pitcher."

Fleming said the cold didn't really bother him.

"It's really not that bad once you start throwing the ball," Fleming said. "It kind of helped when the umps let me blow into my hand, which kept my hand warm."

The Eagles improved to 6-3,while Hawks fell to 5-2.

The Eagles went up 1-0 in the third inning when Cameron Touchette drew a bases-loaded walk. Kyle Gudeman was hit by a pitch and Quinten Spivey and Zach Mathews both singled to load the bases.

"It's like a dream, I guess," Touchette said of getting to play on the artificial turf at GCS Stadium.

The Eagles got an insurance run in the sixth thanks to three errors by the Hawks, and then added two more runs in the seventh on a two-run triple by Mathews.

The Hawks had runners at second and third in the second inning after Jordan McFarland collected his team's lone hit of the game with a single to right field and Ryley Wallin reached on a dropped third strike.

The Eagles got an unusual double play as McFarland was tagged out at the plate after a called third strike to Josh Brinkmann went to the backstop.

Columbia catcher K.J. Spisak got to the ball quickly and made a perfect-placed flip back to Fleming in time to catch the sliding McFarland.

"It was an interesting scenario," Skaer said. "I didn't really know what the call was. I was completely confused there for a while. Usually in that scenario, you don't see a strike three called, but he said he made it clear to the catcher and the hitter, and that's all he is worried about."

Fleming was relieved by Brendan Wilhelm after Auggie Wood reached on an error and Ryley Wallin was hit by a pitch to start the seventh inning.

"He kept them off balance," Jany said of Fleming. "He's a great pitcher. He has the mental makeup that he wants to be out there. He wants the ball in those situations, and he proved tonight why he is our No. 1, our go-to guy."

Wilhelm got a strikeout and then a double on a looping liner to the shortstop to preserve the win.

"We had a couple of chances where we could have gotten a big base hit, and we didn't," Skaer said. "Facing a good pitcher, we didn't battle well enough. We struck out too many times, and just didn't get the job done."

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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