Baseball can be a numbers game at times and right now, O’Fallon High Brad Harrison has a favorite number.
Harrison tossed his fifth straight shutout Thursday, holding a strong Waterloo lineup to two hits while striking out 12 in a 4-0 Senior Night victory that pushed his record to 11-0.
Speaking of numbers, Harrison’s earned-run average is a microscopic 0.19 and at one point Thursday he struck out eight straight hitters.
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The Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit has strung together 33 consecutive scoreless innings and he hasn’t allowed a run in more than a month.
This was no ordinary lineup he quieted Thursday. The Bulldogs feature potential Major League Draft pick Jordan McFarland and two other legitimate power hitters in Tyler McAlister and Erik Kaiser. The trio has a combined 81 RBIs, but went 1-for-8 Thursday with a hit by McAlister and walk by Kaiser.
It was the first time Waterloo had been shut out in 52 games dating back to last season.
“Their lineup is stacked, they have solid hitters one through nine,” said Harrison, who probably didn’t realize Waterloo came in averaging just under seven runs a game. “I think today it all started with the fastball. Being able to command strike one and being able to locate the fastball was really effective in setting up the other pitches.
“It all starts with the fastball.”
O’Fallon (29-3) has won 21 in a row and was ranked second in the latest PrepBaseballReport.com state poll. Waterloo (23-5), which saw its 11-game winning streak come to an end, was ranked11th in the state.
O’Fallon is first in the News-Democrat Large-School rankings and Waterloo is third. As a result, a huge crowd gathered at Blazier Field to watch the heavyweight battle.
Waterloo coach Mark Vogel was extremely impressed with Harrison.
“We haven’t seen a pitcher like that this year and we knew we had our hands full with him on the mound,” Vogel said. “The only disappointment today is we didn’t play as well defensively as we could have and as we usually do. We had three unearned runs out of the four.”
Vogel also liked the job turned in by McAlister, a Missouri State recruit. McAlister surrendered only five hits, striking out five, while allowing three unearned runs among the four he gave up.
“Tyler did a fantastic job of competing and we just didn’t play good defense behind him,” Vogel said. “I would have liked to see us put the ball in play a little more, but I’m going to give (Harrison) all the credit today.”
A throwing error, a balk and sacrifice fly by Jordan Richardson put O’Fallon on top 1-0 in the second.
There was controversy in the fourth when O’Fallon’s Joe Guithues dropped down a bunt, then collided with Waterloo second baseman Nate Albers when Albers covered first on the play.
A run scored after Guithues jarred the ball loose, prompting an argument from Vogel.
“My argument was I don’t think it was incidental contact,” Vogel said. “I thought his arms came out and I’m not sure he was in the running lane, but I didn’t have a clear enough view to emphatically argue that point.
“My argument was that (the home plate umpire) didn’t see it. It was his call and he didn’t see it. “
Another Waterloo throwing error led to two more runs in the sixth after Brad Snyder and Harrison singled leading off the inning.
O’Fallon coach Jason Portz keeps watching Harrison string zeroes together.
“It’s become something ... you don’t expect it out of Brad, but whenever he does it it just seems to be the norm for him,” Portz said of Harrison, who has allowed . He continues to make pitches when he has to. He had some three-ball counts tonight and for him to do what he did to the middle of their order says a lot about the type of pitcher that he is and the type of season that he’s had. He is certainly establishing himself as an elite guy in our area.”
Harrison and McFarland are teammates on the St. Louis Pirates, a summer travel team. The pair appeared to be enjoying some good-natured back-and-forth commentary when facing each other.
“He really didn’t appreciate how we pitched to him,” Harrison said. “We kind of pitched him backwards, 2-0 change-ups, 3-1 breaking balls. But against a phenomenal hitter like that, that’s what you have to do to get him out — so that’s what we did.”