HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Indians crush section rival Derry, 13-3
It’s about finishing strong for the Indiana Indians.
The Indians cracked 16 hits, including six in the fifth and final inning, and defeated Derry, 13-3, in a WPIAL Section 2-AAA game shortened by the mercy rule on Friday at Keystone Rehab Field. It was playoff-bound Indiana’s ninth win in its last 10 games.
“Last year we kind of had a downhill towards the end of the year,” said senior Sean Thompson, who scored the final run to enforce the mercy rule on Jordan Hudzicki’s fifth-inning single. “This year we struggled early, but we’re starting to come on now, so it’s a better feeling this year.”
Indiana improved to 10-6, 8-3 in the section, with two scheduled games remaining, though it may add a non-section game or two before the playoffs start.
Thompson went 4-for-4 with five RBIs, Cole Shaffer went 3-for-3 with three runs scored and pitcher Danny Clark scored three runs while he, Ryan Creps and Zach Schultz each went 2-for-4.
“We want to finish strong,” Indiana coach Ryan Davies said. “It’s an old clich￩, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We’re really turning a corner and we’re finishing strong.”
“We’re swinging the bats a lot better,” Thompson said. “We weren’t at the beginning of the year.”
Clark was solid in the win, striking out four and walking four in five innings.
Derry trailed 7-2, but threatened in the top of the fifth, loading the bases with one out. Clark got exactly what he wanted — a comebacker to the mound — but he flubbed it and couldn’t get the force out at home, let alone the inning-ending double play, and a run scored.
No worries. Clark fanned the next two batters.
“He hasn’t pitched probably in almost two weeks, and I knew I wanted to get him the start today as a senior (on Senior Day),” Davies said. “We got into a little bit of trouble here and there, bases loaded, and he was able to limit damage and work his way out. It’s a credit to him and his mentality that he’s not going to let one bad play or one bad pitch dictate how he’s going to finish an inning.”
Derry (6-8, 4-7) was in the playoff race until earlier this week. The Trojans blew a four-run lead to Mount Pleasant last Thursday, though, and fell to Uniontown on Monday to dash their hopes.
“We came out today and I asked them to do one thing for me,” Derry coach John Flickinger said. “I said, Just play this game loose and play it for pride and get it done, but we certainly didn’t do that today. I’m very, very disappointed in our team today, the way we came out and played. Embarrassing.”
Joey Kelly put forth a fight on the mound, despite five errors behind him. He struck out four and walked one.
“He battled,” Flickinger said. “I wouldn’t want to be him. He was 5-0 coming into this game today. He’s not real flashy, but he gets outs. How many ground balls did he get today that we didn’t field? So many. And give credit to Indiana. They’re a quality program and they’re going to do good things in the playoffs.”
Clark, Shaffer and Creps got on base in front of the cleanup hitter Thompson, so his four singles did damage. His hits drove in two runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings.
An ace pitcher who has committed to play at Virginia Commonwealth University, Thompson has maintained focus on the offensive side of the game.
“I come out here (to work out), I throw first usually, then I go up in the cage and get my work in there, because I don’t want to be just a great pitcher, I want to play both positions as long as I can and as well as I possibly can,” he said. “It’s a big deal for me.”