You don't have to pile up strikeouts to be dominant on the mound.
Sometimes all it takes is throwing strikes and trusting your defense.
That's exactly what Neuqua Valley senior pitcher Andy Sommers did in leading his team to Tuesday's 3-1 Upstate Eight Conference baseball victory over Metea Valley in Aurora.
Sommers, who needed only 83 pitches to complete the game, coaxed the Mustangs (6-6, 2-3) into 12 groundball outs. None were bigger than a fourth-inning double play started by Sommers that got Neuqua Valley (6-7, 5-3) out of a first-and-third jam with a Metea Valley run already in.
Not only did the runner at third not score on the double play, Sommers struck out the next batter to strand him there. Metea Valley managed only two baserunners the rest of the way as the Wildcats claimed the first game of the series.
"I knew if I just pounded the strike zone, (they'd) hit the ball on the infield and I knew my infielders would make the plays," Sommers said. "I have total faith in them. They did exactly what they were supposed to do."
Like the Mustangs against Sommers, who scattered 4 hits while striking out four and walking two, Neuqua Valley struggled against Mustangs starter Jack Szott, who struck out six and allowed 5 hits.
Bradley-bound Wildcats shortstop Mike Riesner created the first run in the top of the first by being hit by a pitch, stealing second, reaching third on a wild pitch and scoring on a straight steal of home. An error opened the door to a 2-0 second-inning lead when Nick Hilgemann doubled in a run.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the fourth on Josh Piotrowski's RBI single.
"Today was as good a pitched game as Andy could possibly pitch, and we needed it with a tough day to hit like this," said Neuqua Valley coach Robin Renner. "He's a senior, he's a leader, he's a good pitcher. He did what his team needed him to do."
Metea Valley broke through against Sommers in the bottom of the fourth when Szott singled home Ben Doiron. The double play, however, pretty much ended the Mustangs' best scoring threat of the game.
"Jack was good enough today that he should have won the game," said Metea Valley coach Craig Tomczak. "You can't have three errors, that's going to get you. For Jack to go out and throw the ball as well as he did, that's kind of disheartening."
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