By Dennis Glade Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Late inning execution has been a problem for the Washington baseball team for much of the 2014 season, and that trend continued Thursday night.
The Hatchets dropped to 8-12 with a 10-5 loss at the hands of North Knox (10-9), despite a gritty performance from junior starter Michael Ramsey on the mound. It was Washington’s first loss after winning three straight games.
Entering the seventh inning, Washington trailed 6-4 and had a comeback on its mind if it could just get through the 6-7-8 hitters at the bottom of the North Knox lineup. Ramsey retired Alex Plummer on a flyout to centerfielder Austin Moody and struck out Zach Dillon for the first two outs.
Ramsey then walked Brett Ridgway and hit Caden Fields with a pitch to bring leadoff hitter Hunter Jones to the plate.
Washington coach Steve Reed was concerned with Ramsey’s pitch count and he brought in Moody to get the final out of the inning. Moody, however, couldn’t find the strike zone. The freshman walked three consecutive batters to bring in three runs. Kaden Pfender relieved Moody and allowed an RBI single to Luke McKinnon to put the Warriors ahead 10-4.
“We just have to throw strikes,” Reed said. “You can’t go from 6-4 in the seventh to 10-4 — you just can’t do that in this game and that’s exactly what we did. I think they hit one ball in play in that inning and scored four runs. We stress with out pitcher, ‘make them earn it. Make them hit their way on and limit your errors.’ That last inning we just didn’t do it. I know guys are trying, but it’s all about producing. Bottom line is throw strikes.”
Washington loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but could only score one run — on a Zach Scheid sacrifice fly — to suffer another tough loss.
“In the bottom of the inning, what do we do, we threaten and load the bases, but it’s 10-4,” Reed said. “At 6-4, it’s a totally different outcome. They get a little nervous and get on edge, at 10-4 they’re still relaxed. That’s been out track record — we compete, we’re in the game for six innings and we just can’t finish and the wheels come off in the last inning. That’s exactly what happened.”
North Knox jumped on Ramsey early with four runs in the first, and for a moment it looked like the junior pitcher wasn’t going to be long for Thursday’s game. The Warriors got run-scoring singles from McKinnon, Christopher Graman and Plummer to take the early lead. Washington bounced back with two runs each in the first two innings on just two hits in total to tie the game at four.
“Offensively, against their starter (Shanson Lamb, 6 1-3 innings, five runs) we have got to chase that guy in the fourth or fifth inning and we didn’t do that,” Reed said. “We let him come out in the seventh and I don’t want to take anything away from him, but we have to chase him when he’s wild and erratic.”
North Knox loaded the bases with one out in the third, but Ramsey was able to work out of trouble with a strikeout of Fields and a flyout to centerfield by Jones. In the fourth, the Warriors took the lead back with a Graman sacrifice fly and a Plummer RBI double.
After that, however, Ramsey didn’t allow a hit over the final 2 2-3 innings, while allowing just two runners to reach base on an error and a walk.
Ramsey’s final stats weren’t glamorous — 6 2-3 innings, eight hits, eight runs (six earned), six walks, two hit batters and three strikeouts — but he was one out from a complete game and he kept Washington within striking distance on a day when he didn’t have his best stuff.
“I thought he settled down well,” Reed said. “He got in some trouble and we tried to get a complete game out of him, but with two outs in the seventh, he hit a guy and walked a guy, it was time to get him out.”