Indiana pitchers combined to strike out just two batters Thursday. That left 18 outs the defense had to take care of.
That Yough got just two hits on the day was a huge credit to the Indiana fielders.
Indiana’s infielders were particularly sharp and put together a sterling performance in the Indians’ 8-3 victory over Yough in a WPIAL Section 2-AAA baseball game at Keystone Rehab Field.
“Every game we’ve progressed, getting better in at least one aspect,” Indiana coach Ryan Davies said. “We either start hitting better, fielding better. For our defense to play the way it did behind the pitchers, that definitely helped limit the amount of pitches Jordan (Hudzicki) threw.”
“In the beginning (of the season) we struggled a little bit, but Coach really preached to us that we needed to keep fielding cleanly,” Indiana senior second baseman Ryan Creps said. “He said the good plays will come once we get the regular plays down. That’s what we kept doing, and the good plays started coming today.”
Indiana improved to 3-1 four games into its string of five games scheduled on consecutive days. The Indians (4-5, 3-2 section) were scheduled to play at Derry at 4 p.m. today.
The defense didn’t make many highlight-reel plays, but it did convert its chances to outs.
The notable exception was the smooth 6-4-3 double play Kevin Jack, Creps and Sean Thompson turned in the second inning.
Jack, a junior, returned to the baseball team this season after sitting out last year, and he has taken over the shortstop position. Hudzicki, Thursday’s starting pitcher, is the regular third baseman. Creps, last year’s starting shortstop, has shifted over to the other side of the bag, taking his shortstop-level skills down the defensive spectrum to second.
“With Kevin, Ryan and Jordan on the field, we have three shortstops who are capable of (also) playing third and second,” Davies said.
“That helps out,” Creps said of Jack’s return. “That wasn’t really my decision (moving to second base). It was the coach’s decision, and I’m not going to argue against it. Kevin’s been a great shortstop this year. You can’t argue anything. He’s done everything he’s needed to do all year. It’s really helped the whole infield out.”
Hudzicki’s line — three runs, two earned, with one strikeout and seven walks in five-plus innings — wasn’t the prettiest, but the senior right-hander did just what his team needed, eating up innings for a taxed pitching staff, and he was rewarded with the win.
Matt Griffith tossed two strong innings of relief.
“I told (Hudzicki) before the game that we needed him to go deep into the game,” Davies said. “That was his main goal — just give us a chance to win, go deep into the game. And he was able to do that. I may have left him in a little longer than maybe he was comfortable with or longer than I should have, but I really wanted to get one more inning out of him, and I had complete faith in Matt that he’d be able to come in with the bases loaded. It’s an unenviable position. I felt a little bad about it, but I knew he’d be able to get us out of the inning.”
The bats did their job, building a 3-1 lead through 4 1/2 innings before piling on five runs over the fifth and sixth innings.
Creps and Thompson went 2-for-3. Creps, Cole Shaffer and Bo Putt scored two runs each, and Thompson drove in two with his bases-loaded single in the third inning.
“We’re definitely hitting our stride offensively,” Davies said. “Today we had a little bit more opportunistic hits with guys in scoring position. The past few games we’ve been very sound offensively. We haven’t swung at a lot of bad pitches. We were able to push eight runs across, and anytime you’re able to score eight runs, your offense is doing something well.”
Playing so many games in a week after several weather-related postponements, Indiana is getting a chance to distance itself from its early-season struggles. Despite the difficulty of managing a small pitching staff in such a heavy schedule of games, Davies was more chipper about the situation following another win.
“The way the weather’s been, it’s nice to tie some games together and just get a routine, repetition going,” he said. “Guys wake up in the morning; they know they’re playing. … This week we’ve been able to tighten up some areas. We’ve been able to see live pitching consistently, and that’s going to help us going into next week and the second half of the season.”
“Now we’re on a roll,” Creps said. “We’re really going to start going now. We’ve got two wins in a row. We’ve just got to keep rolling. Our pitching’s been good. Our defense has been good. Everything’s clicking right now.”