WESTFIELD TWP. — Kenny Sanford said he was “honored” to be pegged the No. 2 starter by first-year Highland baseball coach Jay Grissom.
Sanford yet again failed to disappoint Tuesday at Cloverleaf.
The junior sparkled, allowing just four hits over six innings as the Hornets crushed the Colts 11-0 in Suburban League action.
“We have a high motor,” he said. “When we’re playing our best baseball, I believe we can beat any team in our league, state, anywhere. Sometimes it takes a butt-whipping like we had Saturday (against Youngstown Ursuline) to get back up and play better baseball.”
Sanford (3-1), a Saturday non-league pitcher as a sophomore who is essentially taking over for graduated All-Gazette pick Jerry Scholle, struck out six, picked off a runner and threw 42 of his 57 pitches for strikes.
The lanky southpaw was never seriously threatened, as only Cloverleaf freshman Kenny Wells reached second base on an error after hitting an infield single.
Sanford picked off Freddy Wells five pitches in and canceled two other runners on fielder’s choices. His teammates took care of the rest, highlighted by a hustle play from catcher Grant Loeding, who backed up a wild throw to first and beat the Colts’ Dillon Mullins, who had rounded, back to the bag.
“Honestly, I owe it all to my defense,” Sanford said. “I started off the game really shaky, but I pitched to contact and my defense was there for me. They made plays, and that makes my job easier.”
Cloverleaf (3-10, 2-5) could have kept the game closer, but errors led to five unearned runs. West Virginia Tech recruit Jayson Sykora (1-4) pitched better than his stat line indicated — he threw 50 of 77 pitches for strikes — but the Hornets consistently split groundballs between defenders and moved runners.
Second baseman Alex Harris’ RBI triple in which the right fielder overplayed the ball due to swirling winds was Highland’s lone extra base hit as it scored runs via errors, double steal and sacrifice fly.
Compounding issues, Cloverleaf, which entered averaging a respectable 5.0 runs per game, simply failed to find the same holes in the infield.
“I felt the score could have been 0-0 through most of the game,” Colts coach Josh Boggs said. “They dinked and dunked. It’s hard to say it would have been 0-0, but I think Jayson pitched a tremendous game. He kept them off-balance and he was hitting his spots, but if you look at the line score, you don’t see how well he pitched.”
With the wind blowing in from U.S. Route 224, the Hornets (10-4, 6-1) used a balanced effort to score in every inning. No. 9 hitter Loeding had two singles, two RBIs and two runs, designated hitter Clay Condon had three hits and scored twice and Harris and Lake Erie recruit Luke Raley each added two RBIs.
They were far from the only table setters. Leadoff man and shortstop Ricky Esker had two singles, while left fielder Zach Garcia scored twice from the No. 8 spot.
“As a team, we really came together,” Loeding said. “It really wasn’t just one person hitting the ball. It was a good win.”
In recent games, Raley and first baseman Anthony Ondrejcak have carried the load. That certainly wasn’t the case Tuesday, when seemingly everyone got into the act while playing strong defense to boot.
“We just have a great attitude towards the game,” Condon said. “We never give up, so that’s really where it comes from. Everybody’s up and lively in the dugout. It’s great to see.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland 11, Cloverleaf 0 (6 inn.)
HIGHLAND 121 223 — 11 10 2
CLOVERLEAF 000 000 — 0 4 4
WP — Kenny Sanford (3-1) 6 innings, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts. LP — Jayson Sykora (1-4) 5 innings, 8 runs, 5 earned, 8 hits, 2 walks, 2 hit by pitches, strikeout. Highland (10-4, 6-1) — Ricky Esker 2 singles; Luke Raley single, 2 RBIs; Clay Condon 3 singles, 2 runs; Alex Harris single, triple, two RBIs; Zach Garcia 2 runs; Grant Loeding 2 singles, 2 RBIs, 2 runs. Cloverleaf (3-10, 2-5) — Freddy Wells 2 singles.
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