Carmel Catholic's "Matty Ice," Matt Ryan, showed off arm strength that another "Matty Ice," Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, would appreciate.
Carmel's starting pitcher tested Stevenson's new concrete backstop on the first pitch he threw in the bottom of the first. He later winged another extremely high fastball, but "Matty Ice" found his control and displayed his ice-water-in-the-veins composure, settling down to toss 4 quality innings as the Corsairs defeated the host Patriots 7-1 in a nonconference game between perennial Lake County baseball powers Saturday.
Carmel (2-1) got a pair of doubles and 3 RBI from junior Matt Skarzynski in his varsity debut. The Corsairs were playing for the first time in exactly a week, when they opened the season in St. Louis with a loss to defending Missouri Class 4A state champ Rockwood Summit before beating previously undefeated Jacksonville in their nightcap. The St. Louis area was then hit with more than a foot of snow last Sunday.
"We were stranded in the hotel," first-year Carmel coach Dann Giesey, who spent six seasons as Johnsburg's coach, said. "We couldn't go anywhere. We were stuck."
Ryan and Dalton Wright kept Stevenson's offense from getting going, as they combined on a 2-hitter.
Saturday marked the Patriots' season opener and the first time they had escaped their field house. Four Stevenson pitchers combined to walk 8 batters and allow 8 hits. Sophomore Jimmy Marchese (RBI groundout) and junior Austin Black had the home team's only hits.
"Our timing was off, hitting, and our pitchers weren't sharp," said Stevenson coach Paul Mazzuca, whose offense was missing hard-hitting Zach Novoselsky (shoulder). "But we still got to come and compete."
In his first start of the year, Ryan earned the win by allowing only 1 hit and 1 unearned run, striking out five, walking five (all in the first 2 innings) and hitting a batter. With the adrenaline flowing, his first pitch sailed to the backstop, hitting it on a hop. The ball nearly ricocheted back to catcher Ian Kristan.
"He wanted to see if he could get the ball back to the catcher," Giesey joked.
Nearly a year ago to the date, Ryan fired a complete-game shutout against Stevenson.
"I was trying to duplicate that, but I started off a little rough," said Ryan, who's signed to play Division I baseball with St. Louis University, where he will be a second baseman. "I tried to make some adjustments, and I think by the third and fourth innings I did. I just have to work harder and get better for my next start."
Working with a 2-0 lead, Ryan walked Tony Heiser and Black to start the bottom of the first but struck out two of the next three hitters. A pair of walks and Marchese's single loaded the bases in the Stevenson second. Ryan picked off a runner at second base to help himself escape with no runs scoring.
"We were probably only one or two hits away from being back in the game," Mazzuca said. "But it didn't happen."
Ryan, who helped himself at the plate with a single and an RBI, pitched a 1-2-3 third. An error leading off the fourth led to Stevenson's only run.
"The first two innings Matt struggled with his control, but what I liked was that he came back, and in the third and fourth innings he threw only 28 pitches," Giesey said. "I told him, 'Don't worry about the first 2 (innings). Let's get back in the third and fourth,' and he did. He threw well."
Wright, who pitched a complete game in the season opener against Rockwood Summit, earned the save by throwing 3 scoreless innings, striking out four.
Skarzynski took advantage of Duncan Amrein being out with tendinitis in his hand. Batting in the sixth spot, Skarzynski came to the plate with the bases loaded on three walks and two out. He pulled a Matt Allen pitch over the head of Heiser in right field for a 2-run double and 2-0 lead for the visitors.
"He will rarely walk three guys in a game, let alone the first inning," Mazzuca said of the veteran Allen.
Skarzynski doubled again in the third, hitting a pitch to deep center to plate another run and make it 6-0. Purdue-bound Brett Milazzo doubled, and Tyler Murphy and Kristan singled earlier in the third.
"The first at-bat I was just looking for something to hit because (the count) was 2-2," said the lefty-hitting Skarzynski, who was the designated hitter. "I got something."
Skarzynski drew a walk in the fifth and finished 2-for-2. He had gone 5-for-7 with a home run in a pair of JV games in St. Louis.
"I got the opportunity and I just tried to capitalize on it," Skarzynski said. "It felt good."
"That's what those JV games are for," Giesey said. "They're an opportunity to try to break into the lineup."
Besides Skarzynski, Milazzo also finished with 2 hits. Sean Brennan had a double. While Stevenson issued 8 walks, Carmel's Ryan and Wright allowed 7.
"Good game," Giesey said. "Walks. You're going to have a lot of that early in the spring."