Pitching, Defense Power Eagles Past Cougars, 5-1
Story And Photos By Colin A.J. Murphy
Brandon OMalley scattered five hits and allowed just one run over seven innings in leading the visiting Northeast Eagles to a 5-1 win over Chesapeake on March 30. Matt Bougard had three hits and an RBI for the Eagles, and Eric Grantland also drove in a run as Northeast took advantage of three Chesapeake errors and two passed balls to put up three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth.
The 5-0 lead after four and a half innings was more than enough for the Eagles, as OMalley needed just 69 pitches and a solid defense behind him to keep the Chesapeake offense in check all afternoon.
I just felt comfortable, said OMalley of his day on the mound. I knew my team had my back and I didnt have to strike everybody out.
Along with the solid pitching performance, the defense was critical to the victory for Northeast. OMalley struck out just one batter, and the infield of Bougard (3B), Grantland (2B), Dillon Atkinson (1B), and Joe Rivera (SS) combined for seven groundball putouts on the day. The speedy outfield of Gage Simmons, Michael Knopp, and Matt Wilson also did their part, covering large swaths of terrain in running down six fly balls, none too easy.
I tell you what, when the ball goes in the air, our outfielders go get it, said Northeast Head Coach Adam Bolling, who also praised OMalleys revamped pitching approach from a season ago and improved control on the mound. Last year he had some control issues. This year, hes not throwing as many pitches. Hes not having as many strikeouts, but hes pitching effectively. He trusts the guys behind him to do their job.
Conversely, Chesapeake starting pitcher Michael Ferguson had his strikeout pitches working. He fanned eight Northeast hitters in 4.1 innings, but as Cougar Head Coach Ken King said afterwards, We didnt do ourselves any favors on defense.
With the game scoreless through three innings, the Eagles drew first blood in the top of the fourth. OMalley struck out to lead off, but reached when the third strike got past Chesapeake catcher Sean Blum. A single by Bougard moved OMalley to third, and Bougard moved to second on a wild pickoff attempt. After Grantland reached base on a hit-by-pitch, both OMalley and Bougard scored on passed balls, and Grantland came home on a balk. All told, Chesapeakes less-than-crisp play in the inning yielded a 3-0 Northeast lead.
The Eagles struck again in the fifth, as consecutive base knocks by Bougard and Grantland drove in Knopp and OMalley, pushing the Northeast lead to 5-0.
Chesapeake managed to put up a run with two outs in the bottom of the fifth after Christian Hamel doubled and was driven in on an RBI single by Jake Rich. But the inning ended on a groundout one batter later, and the Eagles cut off any hopes of a Chesapeake rally in the sixth with an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play. OMalley worked a perfect seventh to close out the 5-1 win.
The senior pitcher spoke afterwards of how the team has taken a collective step forward this season. We just play more as a team now, said OMalley. Everybody has faith in each other, and thats what helps us out.
Bolling agrees, citing the development he has seen from his squad over the past several seasons. Were a year older, and its a maturation process, he said. Theyre starting to play baseball and its fun to see.
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