Although the Garaway Pirates were the higher seed coming into their sectional opener against the Union Local Jets Tuesday, May 9 in Sugarcreek, head coach Justin Elmore was not about to take anything for granted.
Once he got a view of Jets starting pitcher Cody Ray, he knew his team was in for a battle.”
“I saw him throwing and knew right away he was the real deal and we were in for a battle,” Elmore said.
However, Garaway starter BJ Schwartz was able to match Ray and even one-up him, and the Pirates took home a 4-1 victory in a game in which they did all of the little things that helped them pull out the victory.
“We played well in a lot of aspects,” said Elmore. “We got great pitching, we made plays on defense and we got timely hits when we absolutely needed to.”
The little things started on the mound, where Schwartz as a picture of consistency. The senior took the helm for the Pirates and gave them every opportunity to win by throwing strikes, mixing speeds and allowing his defense to make plays behind him.
“I trusted my teammates,” Schwartz said. “Before the game, I told them I was going to throw strikes and they would put the ball in play, and I knew they would make plays behind me. I did my job and they did their job.”
Schwartz was dealing all day, tossing a complete-game four-hitter, the lone Jets run being of the unearned variety in the top of the first inning.
Garaway threatened in the second when Derek Briggs crushed a double to center with one out to advance Ryan Aleshire, who had been hit by a Ray offering, to third. However, Ray got two huge strikeout of Micah VanFossen and ben Koshmider, squelching the threat.
The Pirates finally got to Ray in the third for a pair to take the lead, but it was far from Ray’s doing. After hitting Peyton Miller to lead the inning off, Schwartz lined into a double play to second base, clearing the bases. Trey Hershberger then hot a chopper to third that was mishandled, and Quinn Miller then hit a ball off the end of the bat that blooped into no-man’s land between the mound and second base. Aleshire then laced a single to right to score one run, and another Jets error allowed a second run to score.
In the fourth inning, Peyton Miller singled, stole second and dashed home on Schwartz’ RBI single to make it 3-1, and the Pirates tacked on a key insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Schwartz singled, stole second and scored on Quinn Miller’s shot through the hole between short and third.
The Jets manufactured a scoring opportunity in the fourth inning, but a perfectly executed relay play from trey Hershberger to Aleshire to catcher Ian Hershberger nailed the scoring threat at the plate as Hershberger applied the tag to Ray as he tried to literally leap over the top of the catcher.
For Elmore, seeing his team complete the relay play was as good as anything in the game.
“We have some quality arms in the outfield, and at times this year we have been overly aggressive in not hitting our cuts,” Elmore said. “We have really preached that, and the kids have taken that to heart. Trey really played a solid game all night long.”
Elmore added that Peyton Miller also played a strong game both defensively at shortstop and at the ate, where Elmore has dropped him into the nine hole and he has blossomed.
Other than that threat, Schwartz was nails, carving up Jets hitting at an alarming pace. However, the insurance run in the sixth would become huge as the Jets would mount a last-ditch effort in the seventh.
Schwartz would walk a pair and give up a sharp single to right to load the bases with two outs, but he induced a lazy fly to right to end the game.
It was fitting the final out would be hit to Trey Hershberger in right. The junior had a stellar game, that included an RBI single, the perfectly-executed relay throw to the plate to cut down a run and a brilliant catch against the fence on a long fly ball.
“I couldn’t be prouder of BJ,” Elmore said. “He gave a phenomenal effort. went into the seventh inning having thrown just 65 pitches. He was working and we knew this team was aggressive, and he kept them off balance all night.”
Garaway banged out nine hits to Union Local’s four, while Ray whiffed seven Pirates and walked one, hitting a pair. Schwartz struck out four while walking two, scattering the four hits. Quinn Miller and Schwartz both had a pair of hits for the Pirates.
The other part of the game that can’t be overlooked is Garaway’s base running game. The Pirates stole a whopping seven bases, and many of those factored into the score.
“We felt we could run, and we took every opportunity to do so,” Elmore said. “Our kids did a good job of being aggressive and making them make plays. We have speed, and we have used it to our advantage all season, and it paid off tonight.”
As did the execution of every single aspect of the game.