Tipp’s Kenton Egbert continued to roll, striking out 15, and nearly no-hit Greenville Monday in a 4-0 shutout…clearly the best weapon on the field for the Red Devils.
For the first six innings of Monday’s titanic struggle at Clawson Field Egbert had held visiting Greenville hitless, struck out 12, and the only Greenville runners to reach base came by courtesy of a first inning walk and an error on Tipp shortstop Troy Taylor – a backhand grounder that he got to cleanly but juggled in his attempt to transfer the ball from glove to throwing hand. Egbert stranded those two there, at first and second, on a grounder to second and a pop to first base…and then he really went to work.
Through the next four innings, 2nd through the 5th, he struck out the side three times (eleven in a row) and totally dominated Green Wave hitters with an 88-89 mph fastball and a breaking pitch that looked like an egg rolling off a stove. They couldn’t have hit him with an ironing board.
The problem was, however, that Tipp hitters weren’t doing much against a Greenville freshman named Warren Hartzell, who through the first four innings nearly matched Egbert, surrendering no runs on just three hits. He struck out 4, he walked 2, and he hit a batter, but he didn’t allow Tipp to cross the plate…a frustrating circumstance for Egbert and a looming no-hitter.
Finally, in the top of the sixth Greenville did get a runner on base when with one out Tipp right fielder Andrew Baileys dropped a fly ball on a running catch attempt for an error. But to atone, Baileys made a spectacular diving catch on the next hitter and came up throwing to first to complete the inning-ending double play. Egbert’s no-hitter was intact.
In the meantime Tipp finally scored in the bottom of the fifth. Eli Haddon doubled to left, one of only three hard-hit balls by Tipp, and later scored on a sac fly by Troy Taylor.
An inning later they padded their lead as Hartzell visibly tired, giving up three hits and a hit batter that Tipp managed into a three-run inning. They led 4-0 as they went to the top of the seventh.
Greenville’s Tyler Beyke ended the drama on the second pitch, grounding a ball weakly between short and third that Taylor got to, but couldn’t get enough on his throw to first to retire Beyke. The no-hitter was gone. It visibly upset Egbert, apparently, as he proceeded to strike out the side to end the game – Hartzell, Ethan Saylor, and Tony Sells – on just 12 pitches. Final line: No runs on 1 hit, 15 strikeouts, and 1 walk in a 4-0 shutout win.
Tipp won for the eighth time on 4 runs, on 6 hits, and committed 2 errors. Greenville lost it with no runs, on 1 hits, and had 1 error. Without a doubt, Kenton Egbert was the most imposing player on the field.
“Yeah, you don’t have to score many runs when he pitches,” said Tipp’s Bruce Cahill. “That’s the third game in a row when he’s had 14, 15, or 16 strikeouts. In three league games he’s had 45 strikeouts. You don’t have to do much when he pitches. But we still made a couple of errors behind him today, and we’re not a very offensive club.
“We’re young and we have about five kids that don’t play summer baseball, so they lose a lot of reps from not playing. It’s a strange team because we have three seniors, six juniors, five sophomores and a freshman so you’re going to have days when you make mistakes and have trouble scoring. The other day at West Carrollton we had 15 hits and we’re 3-3 going into the ninth inning. We had the bases loaded twice with no outs and didn’t score. But when you have Egbert on the mound you don’t need much. He pretty much takes the game into his own hands.”
Committed to play at Miami University next spring, he exudes confidence on the mound, knowing that his combination of fastball and an overpowering breaking pitch is more than the average high school team can unravel – Sidney, Piqua, and Greenville, in succession. Polite to a fault, and totally unassuming, his conversation is full of ‘yes sirs’, ‘no sirs’. He’d be a perfect Marine, and he doesn’t need grenades. He has that curveball.
“But I don’t like to get too comfortable,” he cautioned, talking about his latest gem. “So I try to stay on my toes every game.”
But, he knows what he has going for him, and at least one major league scout was there to record his every pitch on Monday.
“I gave up some contact in the first inning, they knocked me around a little, but you just have to be ready and come back from that. I didn’t throw as hard in the first as I did from the second inning on, but to be honest I think I sat too long before the first inning after warming up. I was feeling for it a little in the first inning.”
Pitchers are the first to realize the kind of offensive support they’re going to get, and the fact of Tipp’s issues offensively doesn’t bother him at all. He welcomes the challenge.
“Yes sir, we’ve been struggling offensively, and every pitcher would like to see that pick up a little bit. But it comes sometimes. Last year we started off hot and fell off at the end. This year we’ve started off slow so maybe we’ll pick it up. It’s a cool feeling [to know you have to pitch well], and there’s more pressure this year, but at the same time I’ve learned to relax and enjoy the game. It’s a great feeling to know you’re in the other team’s head – to have a reputation – and to go out there believing you’re the guy.”
You think his head’s not screwed on straight? He chose Miami University because they showed faith in him. He didn’t have a lot of what he calls “solid” offers, and the fact of Miami’s academic reputation and rapidly improving program under coach Danny Hayden was all he needed to hear.
“They’re big on the mental game and they put guys in the big leagues,” he said Monday with a broad smile. “For every ballplayer that’s kinda’ gotta’ be your end goal. But they’ve got great academics and the campus is second to none. I’ve excited to get there.”
But for now Tipp is 8-4 with a lot of baseball left to play. And regardless of how many runs they score, you’ve got a chance when you average a 71% strikeout rate. You don’t have to do a whole lot more, to quote Bruce Cahill.
You don’t have to do a whole lot more…when you’ve got Kenton Egbert!