March 25, 2009
WEST POINT -- The ability to work out of trouble is essential for any pitcher.
Sometimes that trouble materializes after a bloop single or an error.
Other times, an ill-timed walk quickly can put a pitcher in a jam that is difficult to escape.
Cole Vaughan showed Tuesday afternoon he''s capable of living dangerously and then finding a way to avoid the big inning.
Vaughan scattered six hits in a complete-game effort to help the Heritage Academy baseball team defeat Oak Hill Academy 6-3.
Vaughan (2-1), a senior left-hander, walked six and struck out four. He used a 1-2-3 double play in the bottom of the first inning to avoid a possible momentum-changing hit.
Vaughan walked in a run in the sixth that cut the margin to 6-3, but he regrouped to strike out Chad Mangum with the bases loaded.
The runners on base appeared to motivate Vaughan, who Heritage Academy coach Steve Hancock thought was "throwing on fumes."
Vaughan allowed a single to Neill Haas in the seventh but retired Taylor White and Daniel Haas on flyballs to end the game.
Hancock said Daniel Haas was the last batter Vaughan would have faced. He said he trusted pitching coach Tyler Hunter in the sixth when the lead appeared to be in jeopardy.
"We struggled there in the sixth," Hancock said. "Cole had a gutty performance. We have tried to focus with him on getting ahead early and getting in the strike zone. There were times he did a great job with that and there were times when he struggled with it. All in all I was really pleased."
Vaughan worked himself into trouble in the first. A leadoff walk to Brody Blaylock, a bunt by Kale Pierce went for an infield single, and a throwing error on a groundball by Chris Wright loaded the bases with one out.
But if a leadoff walk is a pitcher''s worst enemy, a comebacker to the mound with the bases loaded is his best friend. Neill Haas grounded back to Vaughan, who started a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
Hancock said the coaches have been working with Vaughan on staying focused on the mound. He said Vaughan appeared to lose focus in the sixth and regained it in the seventh.
"Cole Vaughan didn''t have his best stuff, but when he needed it he was able to get some big outs," Hancock said. "I think he was trying to aim balls in the sixth inning. ... But he did a nice job of getting five or six first-pitch outs. When you''re talking about needing 21 outs, that''s crucial when you''re trying to limit your pitch count."
Shortstop Mac Thatcher (three doubles) doubled and scored on Tyler Farnham''s single in the top of the second to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead.
The Raiders tied it in the bottom half of the inning. Daniel Haas walked with one out, moved to third on a single by Luke Langley, and scored on a single by Blaylock.
Thatcher doubled and scored in the fourth ahead of Tyler White, who singled, moved to second on a sacrifice by Farnham, to third on a groundout, and scored on a single by Lyon Brown to make it 3-1.
Thatcher''s double in the sixth scored Jesse Painter (leadoff walk), and Vaughan scored on Farnham''s sacrifice fly to make it 5-1.
"Mac Thatcher had a big, big day at the plate," Hancock said. "We had a lot of guys come through and do a lot of little things."
A single by Chris Wright in the bottom of the fifth scored Pierce to make it 5-2 before the teams exchanged runs in the sixth.
Oak Hill coach Marion Bratton said his team''s inability to deliver the key hit cost it. Blaylock (two singles, two walks) was the only player with two hits for the Raiders (5-6, 1-3).
"The first inning was a big, big inning," Bratton said. "It could have changed the whole outcome of the game. We just didn''t get the job done. We have to come back and get better and go to work."
Bratton said he doesn''t demand his players get hits every time up. He said he only needs the Raiders to get on base and to give their teammates opportunities to move players around the bases.
"Everybody has to chip in," Bratton said. "Everybody has a little piece of the action. I am just asking them to do their job offensively and defensively."
Bratton also said Oak Hill Academy has to do a better job limiting opponents chances. Heritage Academy put the leadoff runner on base in four of its seven at-bats. Three times, including twice by Thatcher, those runners scored.
Pierce also had an RBI for the Raiders, who will travel to Columbus to face Heritage Academy on Thursday.
"It was a game of inches," Bratton said. "They came through when they needed to and we didn''t."
Blaylock allowed 10 hits, walked four, and struck out six.
Bratton, who used to coach at Heritage Academy, extended condolences to the Patriots'' family after the death Monday of former Heritage Academy student Lyndsi Hill.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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