Standing at 4-1 in the early going is a positive for just about any baseball team. However, for Garaway head coach Justin Elmore and the Pirates, that record marks only a tip of the iceberg.
With another closely contested 10-6 win in extra innings over Inter-Valley Conference rival Sandy Valley, the Pirates remained perfect in league play and improved to 4-1, but it wasn’t without its set of miscues and adventures in the field.
“We have definitely not been playing well in the field so far this season,” Elmore said of his team. “We had five more errors in this game, and we can’t continue to allow those extra outs. I told the guys that the longer we play with fire, the better the chance that we will eventually get burned.”
Starting pitcher Trey Hershberger probably deserved a better fate as all five errors came with him on the mound in the first five innings.
The defensive lapses helped dig the Pirates a nice 4-1 hole, but junior slugger Ryan Aleshire delivered what may have been the biggest blow of the game, a three-run home run, that tied the game at 4-4.
Sandy Valley would come back to plate two runs to forge a 6-4 lead through five, and on came freshman pitcher Josh Yoder, who would again show that his effectiveness and calm demeanor go well beyond his lack of varsity experience.
Yoder would slam the door shut over the final three innings, while Garaway would peck out single tallies in the sixth and seventh innings to knot things up at 6-6, with Ian Hershberger delivering a key RBI hit.
In the bottom of the seventh, Sandy Valley threatened to win in walk-off style, but with two outs and the winning run on third, Yoder got a punch-out to end the threat.
“Josh gave a pretty emphatic fist pump and then went right back to work in the eighth like nothing happened,” Elmore said of the freshman.
In the Pirates eighth, the heart of the order came through again, as Trey Hershberger and Quinn Miller reached base and with the sacks loaded, Aleshire came through again, lashing a bases-clearing double, followed by Ian Hershberger’s RBI single for a 10-6 lead.
“Ryan had two poor at bats in his first two plate appearances, swinging at the first pitches he saw and popping them up,” Elmore said. “But he made some adjustments, and then hit two of the hardest balls I have seen hit for quite some time. He Absolutely mashed both of those. Plus, we switched him and Ian around in the batting order because Ian had been scuffling a bit, and that paid off, because Ian had some quality at bats and three hits.”
Then it was just a matter of Yoder finishing the deal, which he did.
Elmore said the feeling of being 4-1 at this point is both good and bad. He said the way thy have played defensively has not been a positive, and yet they have managed to pull out several close wins.
On the other hand, he told his players that they are still 4-1, and haven’t begun to reach their potential.
“Quinn and I were walking out to the bus, and he just turned to me and gave me one of those ‘wow,’ looks,” Elmore said. “I think the guys knew we were fortunate to pull that game out, but we again found a way to win. Sandy Valley is a very good ball team. I told the kids after the game that we are 4-1 playing the way we have played defensively. Just think about how good we can be when we start putting everything together and play clean baseball. That is a good thing and I think it bodes well for our future.”