No opposing baseball coach can offer his team a better scouting report on burgeoning Burlington Central ace Riley Jensen this season than first-year Marengo coach Josh Maas, but no amount of inside information could slow Jensen in Central's 10-0, six-inning victory on Rocket Hill Thursday.
Maas, a 2003 Central graduate who worked as an assistant varsity coach for the Rockets the past three seasons, could only watch as Jensen repeatedly painted corners with his tailing fastball and cutter to complete Central's 2-game Big Northern East series sweep.
"My fastball tails, so I always try to throw inside," Jensen said. "I feel more confident throwing inside against them, getting them looking, trying to jam them. I didn't want to give them anything solid so I could give my defense a chance to make plays."
Jensen allowed only 4 hits, walked 3, and struck out a career-best 11 hitters to run his record to 5-0. He has allowed only 1 earned run in 33 innings, an ERA of 0.21.
"Riley did an awesome job," Central catcher Tanner Scott said. "Everything moves with him. That's basically why he's so hard to hit. He's been throwing the ball great for us."
Burlington Central (10-5, 2-0) jumped on Marengo (5-10, 0-2) for 4 runs in the first inning. The Rockets collected 5 of their 13 hits in the inning against Marengo starting pitcher Bobby Shute, thanks to RBI singles by Scott, Blake Alexander, Kevin Zasada and Cody Wallace.
The Rockets manufactured their fifth run in the third inning. Ray Hunnicutt drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on Alexander's flyout and scored on junior Michael Scott's sacrifice fly.
Central moved to a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning when Tanner Scott's 2-run double off Shute one-hopped the center-field fence.
"It was a good pitch to hit," Scott said. "He left a fastball up."
Jensen worked out of his only real pickle in the fifth. A single by Ryan Hoff, a walk by Jeff Wilmot and a wild pitch put Marengo runners on second and third with two outs. However, Jensen reared back and froze the Indians' No. 5 hitter with an inside fastball for his 10th strikeout.
"I've seen it in person; he's a great pitcher," Maas said of Jensen. "He's just sprouted up and he works his butt off. Everything moves, everything cuts, everything is in the strike zone.
"We put some decent innings together, but we never came up with the big hit. Too many called third strikes."
Central put the game away with 3 more runs in the bottom of the sixth, keyed by consecutive doubles by Zach Ranney and Jensen. Michael Scott ended the game via the 10-run rule with a bases-loaded single off the diving third baseman's mitt.
"Coach told us to take good approaches at the plate, which is what we've been working on all season," said Ranney, who went 2-for-4 to keep his batting average above .500. "We took some good at-bats and just hit it all over the yard."
Jensen went 2-for-3 with a walk, Tanner Scott was 2-for-3 with a walk and 3 RBI, and designated hitter Wallace went 3-for-3 in the 8-hole for Central.
Justin Vogel (2-for-3) enjoyed the only multihit game for Marengo.