The Millbrook Baseball team prides themselves on pitching, speed, and defense. They needed to execute all three of those phases of the game in order to gain sole possession of first place in the Cap-8 Conference on Wednesday. Errorless baseball, strong pitching, and timely small ball pushed the Wildcats past Heritage 2-0 for the all-important victory.
Reid Herring was in a groove right from the start which was evident when his first pitch of the game was a 12-6 curveball that dropped in for a strike. Herring followed with two more strikes to dispatch of the Huskies leadoff hitter, and after allowing a one out single, he struck the next two batters out. To start the second inning, the 6’3 right hander struck another batter out for his fourth consecutive out via punch out. The K-Ball was working, and in the field the eight other Wildcats followed suit with strong play. Herring followed a scoreless second with a two-strikeout third, and in the fourth he was able to get a pair of groundouts, and a foul pop out to the catcher to retire the Huskies 1-2-3.
Vinny Bailey was equally as dominate for Heritage. He too rolled four scoreless frames to keep it a 0-0 game heading into the fifth inning. After tossing a no-hitter his last time out, the only real blemishes to the southpaw’s line in the first half of the game would be a pair of base knocks from arguably the conference’s top hitter of late, Bryce Carnevale. Carnevale extended his hitting streak to four games with a 3-3 showing to improve his batting average to .563 during that stretch.
Bailey kept things interesting, and it appeared that his team would be the first to break the ice as they loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the fifth inning. Vito Patierno laced his second hard-hit single of the game to start the frame, then Herring issued walks to Max Ruskie, and Thayer Thomas to set the stage for Branden Kunz. After a visit to the mound from Coach James, Millbrook was able to escape with a ground out to Aaron Hodges at second.
The tides turned after the defensive stop as the Wildcat bench erupted to praise their pitcher for maneuvering his way through the jam. Herring would help his own cause to start the bottom half of the fifth with an infield single. His courtesy runner CJ Waters would swipe second with one out, and provide Millbrook with all of the offense that they would need by scoring from second on a bunt from Tyler Eckert. Eckert drove in his seventh run in the last two games with a textbook bunt in front of home plate. In desperation, Heritage catcher Harrison Holtz slid to his knees and fired the ball wide left of the bag at first to score Waters.
Having taken advantage of a misplayed bunt, Tyler Snead followed with an even better bunt that he would beat out for a base hit. Carnevale blooped a one out single to center to load the bags, and Dominic Rodts followed with a groundout to shortstop to score Eckert, and increase Millbrook’s lead to 2-0.
If momentum wasn’t already on the home side, it would firmly shift that way in the top half of the sixth inning. Bailey walked to lead off the inning, and Channie Renn singled to left with one out to put runners on the corners. With Patierno at the plate, Renn broke for second and he drew the throw down from Dennis Delgado. Scott McKeon raced in to the infield grass, and cut off the throw as Bailey broke for home on the back end of the double steal. The Wildcat shortstop’s throw the plate was right on the money as Delgado applied the tag to deny the Huskies of another scoring chance. Herring reached back and blew three strikes past the Heritage freshman, Vito Patierno for his seventh and final strikeout of the evening.
Running low on gas, Reid Herring allowed a single to start the top of the seventh inning. With one out, he issued a walk to the number nine hitter, and Thomas followed by moving both runners into scoring position on a groundout. Herring complicated matters even more with the tying run in scoring position by walking the next batter Kunz to fill the bases once more. Having hit his pitch count, Coach James emerged from the dugout to call on his closer Porter Baldwin to face one of the Cap-8’s leading hitters, Vinny Bailey (.387). The leather on Dominic Rodts left hand helped secure Baldwin’s fourth save in five opportunities as he made a diving stab to his left on a potential game-tying hit towards third, and threw to first to end the ballgame. “You got to trust the guys behind you” said Herring, “Dom made a great play, and Dennis was putting down great signs, it was one of those games where that sixth sense kicks in and you just go out there have to give it your all”.
With the win, Millbrook is now 15-7 on the season and they have sole possession of first place in the Cap-8 Conference at 10-2. Heritage falls into a second place tie with Sanderson at 17-4 (9-3), two of the Huskies four losses have come at the hands of Herring and the Wildcats. Herring threw 13.2 innings vs Heritage this season, allowing no runs on only seven hits, and he struck out 16 batters in the process. The Wildcats are at home on Thursday night for an essential conference championship game vs. Sanderson. The Spartans came back to win vs. Millbrook in walk-off fashion three weeks back as Ray Stocum’s single to center gave Porter Baldwin his only blown save of the season.