Giving O’Fallon Panthers ace Bradley Harrison a 4-0 lead in the second inning is never a recipe for success.
Contributing to the problem by committing four errors and surrendering 12 hits creates even more of an uphill climb, as Belleville West discovered the hard way Tuesday in a 10-0, six-inning Southwestern Conference baseball defeat.
Harrison, a senior left-hander headed to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, cruised through the West lineup all day as he won his St. Louis-area leading seventh game against no losses. He allowed only a two-out single to Cal Kossina in the first and struck out seven as the Maroons had only three baserunners.
The win allowed the top-ranked Panthers (17-3 overall, 6-1 in the SWC) to take over first place in the conference. They had been tied for first with fourth-ranked Belleville West (12-5, 5-2), but Harrison and company grabbed sole possession of the lead.
“He’s a handful on the mound,” O’Fallon senior shortstop Camden Bauer said of Harrison, now 7-0 with a 0.32 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings. “He’s our horse, so we’ve got his back. Our defense is really good behind him. He pumps strkes and just competes out there.”
So does Bauer, an Alabama recruit whose offensive resurgence this season included his first career home run on Tuesday. Bauer unloaded on a pitch from West starter Matt Sisk and lasered it over the fence in left leading off the second inning.
We had good BP (batting practice) today and I felt good coming into the game. I’ve always been a singles guy and I live through the middle, that’s what I work on during practice. But it’s nice to turn on one and sneak one out every once in a while.
O’Fallon’s Camden Bauer on his first career homer
“It felt like something special,” said Bauer, who leads the Panthers with a .435 average after going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. “We had good BP (batting practice) today and I felt good coming into the game. I’ve always been a singles guy and I live through the middle, that’s what I work on during practice.
But it’s nice to turn on one and sneak one out every once in a while.”
Did the first career bomb feel good?
“Absolutely,” said Bauer, whose solo homer ignited a four-run second inning that included an RBI single by freshman Josh Gibson and a bases-loaded walk to Jared Dalonzo.
O’Fallon coach Jason Portz said Bauer’s improvement at the plate is a direct result of the hard work he’s put in.
“He’s been outstanding,” Portz said. “From about three-quarters of the way or halfway through 2015, he’s really come into his own as an offensive player. Sometimes I think he gets a really bad rap about his offensive production and you can’t ask for more out of the time that he’s put in and the work he’s put in.
“It’s starting to come together for him and that’s really gratifying, you like to see that. He’s just on a really good run right now.”
Struggling in all aspects
Nothing felt good for the Maroons, who struggled in just about every aspect of their game.
“We didn’t play very well defensively, didn’t get much going offensively either,” West coach Todd Baltz said. “It was just kind of an all-around rough day for the Maroons.”
We didn’t play very well defensively, didn’t get much going offensively either. It was just kind of an all-around rough day for the Maroons.
Belleville West coach Todd Baltz
Having to face the strike zone-pounding Harrison didn’t help.
“He was tough,” Baltz said. “He’s one of the best ones in the conference, he’s not 7-0 for no reason. We gave them a lot of extra outs ... we had a couple throwing errors, a couple fielding errors. We didn’t give ourselves a very good chance to win today.”
O’Fallon’s Dillon Weiss reached safely in four of his five plate appearances and had a leadoff double to start the game. He added an RBI single in the sixth. Joe Guithues walked three times and scored twice and Chase Hackstadt drove in two runs.
Did the extra pressure of playing for first place enter into things for the Maroons?
“You can’t try harder when you’re playing a a game like that,” Baltz said. “It’s the same game, you’ve got to do what you can do. I think we were maybe trying to do too much at times and just were a little bit off today — and it showed.”