Armed with an assortment of pitches which include a knee-buckling curve ball, O’Fallon senior Bradley Harrison continued his season-long domination of Southwestern Conference hitters on Tuesday at Belleville East High School.
Harrison was in control from the outset as he shut down the Belleville East offense on just three hits while striking out 12 to lead SWC frontrunner O’Fallon to a 7-0 victory.
Staked to a 2-0 lead on a Joe Guithues two-run double in the top of the first inning, Harrison kept the Lancers off balance early with his curve ball then overpowered them late with his fast ball as he improved to 9-0 for the season. Harrison also lowered his microscopic ERA to 0.23.
“When you talk about Bradley, you’re talking about a young man who has been in this baseball program for four years and played in many high level games both at the high school level and in summer baseball. He’s played a lot of baseball in his life,’’ O’Fallon coach Jason Portz said. “He’s a very mature, very poised pitcher. He knows to pitch and tonight was a good example of that.
“He had a very good curve ball early and then was able to go on top with his fastball later in the game. He pitched very well again tonight.’’
Taking advantage of two Lancers errors to score three runs in the second inning, O’Fallon increased its lead to 5-0 then tallied two more times in the sixth as it improved to 8-1 in the SWC and 21-3 for the season.
The Lancers (18-9, 3-6) had one scoring chance. Senior Jalen Jones led off the bottom of the third inning with a double. But after tagging up and advancing to third base on a fly ball by Patrick Gaul, Jones was called out for leaving second base too soon.
That double play was it for the Lancers who were handcuffed by Harrison the rest of the way. Harrison did not allow a baserunner from that point on, retiring the final 13 hitters.
“I had a good curve ball early and I have to say my catcher Chase (Hackstadt) did a good job of blocking pitches. It’s not an easy thing to do,’’ Harrison said. “I went more to my fastball a little later on and was able to throw all of my pitches for strikes.
“I’ve had a good year and we’re having a good season as a team. But you can always do better.’’
Panthers strike early
O’Fallon wasted little time in taking the lead against Lancers starting pitcher Evan Lawrence. With a runner on second and two outs in the first inning, Belleville East coach Ryan Wiggs elected to walk Harrison with first base open.
The strategy failed when Guithues came up with his two-run double to give O’Fallon the only runs it would need. The Panthers would finish with just six hits, but drew four walks and the Lancers committed four errors.
“That was a big hit by Joe (Guithues),’’ Portz said. “We did only have the six hits, but we got a couple of hits with runners in scoring position and with the four walks and four who reached on errors, we were able to put some pressure on their defense. I thought we had very good at bats tonight.’’
Lancers defense fails
Lawrence didn’t get much help from his defense in the second inning as two errors led to three O’Fallon runs. With one out, Lawrence hit Jordan Richardson with a pitch and walked Josh Gibson to put runners on first and second base.
Dillon Weiss attempted to sacrifice and when Lawrence fielded the ball between home plate and third base, his throw to first base was wild and Richardson scored to make the score 3-0.
A single by Jared Dalanzo made the score 4-0 and the Panthers added a third run in the inning on another Lancers fielding mistake.
“When we’ve made the plays we’ve had success, when we haven’t, like tonight, we’ve struggled. It’s pretty simple really,’’ Wiggs said. “We’ve still got to clean some things up.
“Offensively, we had a couple of chances early, but we didn’t get the big hit. He (Harrison) is a good pitcher but we didn’t have a very approach at the plate in some cases.’’
O’Fallon added a pair of unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning to close out the scoring.