GUYS MILLS — The Maplewood baseball team faced some tough pitching to start the 2022 season. The Tigers finally got a chance to let their bats do some talking as they took on Region 3 opponent Iroquois on Wednesday at Jake Boyle Memorial Field.
After being held to just two hits total over their first two games, the Tigers quadrupled their production in just two innings on their way to 7-4 victory over the Braves.
“That’s a starting point right there,” said Maplewood head coach Ken Smock, whose team improved to 1-2 overall and in Region 3. “We needed that, especially after playing against some powerhouses with Rocky Grove and Saegertown. We’re getting some things turned around. We finally got the bat on the ball.”
The Tigers sent nine batters to the plate in the first inning. Elliott Beuchat and Stuart Hochstetler led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Later, Beuchat scored on a passed ball. And Jessie McFadden drove Hochstetler in on a double.
Then Noah Burk and Jacob Woge hit two straight singles. Burk’s hit plated McFadden. And the Tigers had themselves a 3-0 lead.
Maplewood then added to it in the second. Beuchat hit his second straight lead-off single. Hochstetler walked. Then Andrew Proper drove both runners in with a single to shallow right.
That would be the end of the day for Braves starter Reilly Brown. He’d recorded one official inning and would allow six earned runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Iroquois brought on Joe Doverspike in relief.
Initially, Maplewood did OK against Doverspike. Burk drew a walk. And Woge singled through the left side to score Proper. Then Burk would later come home on an Iroquois error to make it 7-0.
However, the Tigers would not get another hit the rest of the game. Doverspike had a creeping change-up that Maplewood couldn’t adjust to.
“The game is so much about timing,” said Smock, “especially when you’re struggling, not seeing the ball well early in the year, you’re mechanics are still a little off.”
Doverspike would last four innings and allow just that one run in the second inning and he would strike out three.
Hunter Alderson pitched the sixth for Iroquois and almost had a 1-2-3 inning, but the Braves dropped a fly ball in right field to extend the inning. Alderson got the next batter to ground out to end the frame.
At first it looked like Maplewood’s seven runs would be more than enough cushion, as Tigers starting pitcher Stuart Hochstetler was dealing.
He had a perfect game going through three innings. The Braves (0-2, 0-2 Region 3) finally broke up the no-no with one out in the fourth when Ben Burkhardt threaded a sin
(0-2, 0-2 Region 3) finally broke up the no-no with one out in the fourth when Ben Burkhardt threaded a single through the left side of the infield.
Yet, Hochstetler and the Maplewood defense kept things scoreless through the first five innings.
Then in the sixth, the Tigers dropped a fly ball in the outfield with one out.
That spoiled an otherwise clean defensive game for Maplewood.
“Defensively, that was one of our better games,” Smock said.
Then Hochstetler started losing his location and had to put pitches across the plate. That led to a walk for Reilly Brown, then an RBI single for Gavin Lewis, and then an RBI double to the fence in left field for Ethan Burroughs.
Maplewood’s lead was down to 7-2.
Beuchat relieved Hochstetler in the seventh. Through six innings, Hochstetler yielded two runs, both unearned, on three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
“We had some strong pitching from Stuart, obviously,” said Smock. “He kept us in there.”
To lead off the seventh, Iroquois’ Tyler Shakespeare doubled to deep center. Beuchat got the next two batters to hit into outs. But then he started having control issues as well. He hit the next batter, then walked the next to load the bases. Then he walked a second straight batter to force in a run and bring the tying run to the plate.
The Tigers then went to freshman Landyn Reynolds in relief. He walked a third straight batter, bringing in another run to make it 7-4.
“Walks are always interesting, whether it’s the beginning of the game or the end of the game,” said Smock. “They just cause you heartache. That’s why you can never get enough runs.”
At last, Reynolds got the next batter to swing at a strike three to end the game.
“That builds character,” said Smock. “That was a character game — getting a big lead like that and then the bats go dead. They got the momentum shift.
“But we had a freshman come in and throw strikes and get us out of it. That builds character for him. And we kept playing, kept playing. That’s what you want to do.”