Tipp made the most of their considerable opportunities, scoring early and often to beat Piqua in GWOC play at Hardman Field Monday, 11-0.
Piqua – It was senior Evan Ford’s biggest day of the 2017 season, at least to date.
And big comes with some perspective when you talk about the Tipp Red Devils’ starting pitcher. You see, he stands all of 5’7” inches tall (by his own admission), and says he weighs 160 pounds. Hmm…..maybe!
But Monday afternoon he was as big as hall of famer Randy Johnson as he limited the Piqua Indians to just two hits, striking out four (including the side in the bottom of the fifth), walking one, and well…you get the picture. If you don’t, you will when I tell you that Piqua had just four base runners all day – and that the day only lasted 5 innings as Tipp swept the Indians from the field in run-rule fashion, 11-0.
Ford was simply dominant, spotting a low 80s fastball consistently in the bottom of the strike zone. And worse for Piqua, as the game wore on he began to command a better-than-average breaking pitch that had hitters back on their heels, trying to time the fastball.
“It’s the best I’ve thrown this year,” said Ford with a broad grin. “Really, this is the best I’ve thrown. That low fastball has always been my best pitch, and they hit it if I get it up in the (strike) zone. I learned tonight that if I threw low and away they weren’t going to hit it.”
For that matter the ’27 Yankees struggled to hit the fastball low and away, but the story for the 2017 Tipp Red Devils is Ford’s seeming emergence right when they need him most.
By most accounts from coaches in the area, Bruce Cahill’s team is loaded this year with talent and talented arms – like Ford – who negate any possible worries about pitch counts and the new rule limiting the amount of work on any one pitcher in the course of a week.
“We’ve got arms,” says Cahill of his riches on the mound. “The problem is getting them all enough work.
“But Evan had struggled up until today. Last year he bailed us out over and over because he does have a rubber arm and he’d come to us every day and say, ‘I can pitch again today. I’m good.‘ But the difference today was he threw seven first-pitch strikes to the first nine hitters he faced. He struggled the same way at the beginning of last year, then he got on a great run at the end of the year and shut out Chaminade 1-0 in the district finals.
“What you saw today, the command of the lost fastball, is what he does best,” added Cahill. “And he doesn’t even have his change-up yet, and he’s got a really good one.”
But Evan Ford only complemented what Cahill had worried about pre-season concerning his team’s ability to score runs. Monday…it was no issue. They ambushed Piqua starter Blake Wright immediately, scoring two runs in the first, three more in the second, and center fielder Justyn Eichbaum punctuated the early barrage in the third inning when he pole-axed a Wright fastball 387 feet to dead center for a home run.
But they all hit. Every hitter in Tipp’s order reached base at least once in three trips through the order…and two of the nine, Brad Calhoun and Clay Barhorst, hitting sixth and ninth, respectively, each had two hits.
To his credit, Wright had little support behind him. Not only did the Indians not hit, they didn’t field, either. In all, they committed five errors, there were two wild pitches, and three passed balls in the 4.2 innings in which he worked before surrendering the mound to teammate Logan Harris. Harris pitched for the final out in the Red Devils’ top of the fifth.
And to their credit as a team, the Indians are playing with some injuries and a shuffled lineup – with players learning to play out of position.
“It’s been a process,” said Piqua’s first-year coach Brad Lavy. The team fell to 3-7 for the season with Monday’s loss, and 0-3 in the GWOC.
“Right now we’re dealing with trying to bring a lot of young men together as a team,” he added. “It’s a work in progress to get there, but we’re diligent to make that goal. Fundamentally, we’re not as sound as we need to be, and that goes right back down into the youth leagues. It needs to be stressed. Piqua baseball is not just the kids that I have here, but all the way down to the kids playing Tee-ball. The culture of baseball needs some work in this town.
“That’s what I want to do, and that’s what needs to be done. I want to impact the culture of baseball all the way down.”
Tipp won it with 11 runs, 9 hits, they committed two errors and left four men on base.
Piqua lost it with no runs, just 2 hits, they had 5 errors and left two men on base.
They get another chance tomorrow when the GWOC’s unique schedule pits the same teams back-to-back, home and home.
“In baseball there’s always another game,” added Lavy, who was anything but subdued in his eagerness to play again, and play better.
“There’s another game tomorrow and you have to clear your head and learn from the mistakes you made the day before. There’s lot of games yet to be played…we’ve got to clear our heads and play the game.”