By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Two rivals, a pitchers’ duel and two hits for each team through six innings.
Leave it to the defense to make the difference for the Montgomery and Cardinal Newman baseball teams on Wednesday.
The Cardinals infield recorded three of its five errors against Montgomery in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Vikings took advantage and scored three runs in the frame to pull away with a 5-2 victory in their North Bay League opener.
“They gave us some baserunners because we put a little bit of pressure on them by putting the ball in play,” Montgomery coach Dean Haskins said.
Two of the miscues by Newman (4-7, 0-1) loaded the bases for the Vikings (6-2-1, 1-0). The final one was on a ground ball by Henry Stelzner to Cardinals shortstop Mitchell Whilemson, who bobbled the grounder, allowing Mitchell West to score the go-ahead run. Lucas Buchmann then blasted a drive to deep right center — the Vikings’ first hit since the second inning — to score Josh Lenney and tack on another insurance run.
Haskins said the key was the two-hit, seven-strikeout, complete-game performance from Montgomery’s lefty starter Anthony Prince. After an errant throw to first base from Stelzner allowed Newman to plate two runs in the top of the second, Prince only faced one batter more than the minimum from that point, rendering the Cardinals hitless from the fourth on.
“Anthony came back and really had his composure on the mound and grinded it out. He did a great job for us,” Haskins said.
Prince pointed to the performance of his defense as being key.
“I wanted to make sure I just threw strikes today,” he said. “Let them hit the ball; pitch to contact.”
Montgomery threw out Newman runners in the fourth and seven innings, and Prince picked off another at first in the sixth.
The Vikings got both runs back for Prince in the bottom of the second, thanks in part to more Cardinals errors. A sacrifice by Matt Miller plated Hayden Brascia and a single by Rylan Kobre brought Stelzner across the plate to tie the game at 2-2.
Newman coach T.J. McMahon wasn’t happy that another stellar performance by Cardinals starting pitcher Ridge Etchell — who allowed only two hits in six innings — was wasted.
“Our starting pitcher has given up three hits in his last two games and he’s 0-2,” McMahon said. “He’s thrown a one-hitter and a two-hitter and lost in both … getting good pitching performance from our pitchers and we should be able to win some ball games for them, and we just aren’t able to do it right now.”
Haskins said the team was fired up for its matchup with rival Newman.
“I think it showed with our intensity in the dugout for all seven innings,” he said. “We were focused and in the game, and that’s been something we’ve been trying to improve on.”
After not performing well against Newman last year, Prince wanted to make sure the Vikings had a quality game against their crosstown foes. “We could have played them a little better but I’m glad it turned out the way it did,” he said.