HOMER CITY — It was a great setting for baseball Saturday afternoon at First Commonwealth Field.
A sunny spring day, finally, had brought big crowds for the Teddy Bear Fund Drive High School Baseball Challenge.
On the field, it was only pleasant for Indiana, which rolled to a 13-3 victory over host Homer-Center in a non-conference game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
“You wake up on a day like today, I know the first thought in my mind, and in most of our guys’ minds, is, what a great day for baseball,” Indiana coach Ryan Davies said. “I know our guys enjoy playing the Homer City guys. They have a little rivalry back and forth, being so close, and for me it’s nice playing Homer-Center. (Homer-Center coach) Scott Bauer was my JV coach in (Indiana) high school. It’s a good game to play, and it gave us an opportunity to really get that big win that we’ve been looking for, that we know we’re capable of. This will go a long way to boost confidence with the guys and roll into the second half of the season.”
Indiana (7-5) got five hits and took advantage of 10 walks, three hit batsmen and seven Homer-Center errors. The Indians got a single run on no hits in the first inning and opened up a 5-1 lead after 1? innings — with only two hits to that point. Homer-Center fell to 2-7.
“It was a microcosm of our season,” Bauer said. “You can’t win ballgames doing that, especially against a solid team like Indiana. They took every inch that we gave them.”
It was a bigger blow in front of a nice, big home crowd.
“Disappointed, I think, is the word,” Bauer said, “just disappointed because they talk about this game. They circle this game and they love this game, because it gives them an opportunity to compete against Indiana, and they didn’t. And that’s not my guys. Usually they’re ready to go. So it’s disappointing because it’s another loss, another opportunity we let go.”
Indiana starting pitcher Danny Clark scored four runs despite not getting a hit. The leadoff batter, he drew three walks and was hit by a pitch, and he made his way around the bases each time. Ryan Creps and Kevin Jack accounted for four of Indiana’s five hits, getting two apiece. Add in the Wildcats’ defensive troubles, and that was more than enough for the Indians.
“That’s something we talked about: capitalize on the other team’s mistakes and just play clean baseball. The spectacular plays, they’ll come on their own,” Davies said.
“Anytime a team gives you extra outs, you have to capitalize on it,” Davies continued. “We ran into some games this year where we ended up giving teams extra outs. It comes back to bite you. … For us to be on the good side of it definitely felt good. It’s something we’ve been waiting for, waiting for a breakout game like this.”
Homer-Center, though, is still waiting.
The Wildcats scored two runs on three hits, including Bryan Buzi’s RBI double to center field, in the fifth inning, for a little bright spot at the end of a tough game.
Ean Lee started at second base, playing his third game since returning from an injury. Anthony Caruso, Saturday’s starting pitcher, has also been easing into action after an ailment of his own.
“It just hasn’t solidified yet,” Bauer said. “It will, but we’re running out of time. When will that happen? It’s got to happen very soon. I told the guys, we’ve got to create our own luck. If it’s not happening, we’ve got to find other ways to get guys on. They don’t give an award, or you don’t get wins for hitting the ball hard. You get them for getting guys across the plate. We’re getting guys on base, no doubt about it, we’re just not getting them home. Today we didn’t help with the defense or walks.”
Already hitting its stride, Indiana got a boost with the return to the lineup of sophomore Zach Schultz. He drew two walks, reached on an error, scored a run and pitched two innings of relief.
“That’s another thing,” Davies said. “We’re getting healthy. We’re missing Tyler Brocious still, but we’re almost back to 100 percent. … It’s good to have another very, very strong starter back who we know we can give the ball to every few days.”