By VINCE PELUSO
JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP —
Jefferson coach Scott Barber knows good things usually happen when you put the ball in play and put pressure on the opposing team’s defense.
His Falcons saw first hand what that can do Monday, as they pounded out 12 hits and drew 8 walks en route to a dominant 13-4 All-American Conference win over visiting Niles McKinley.
“We put the ball in play today, we’ve been striking out a lot (prior to today’s game),” Barber said. “Four strikeouts (what Jefferson had against Niles) is good for us. We put the ball in play and made them play defense.
“We got a lot of hits, hard ground balls through the infield. Do that and make them play defense and you can put big numbers up.”
Jefferson (8-5, 6-1) did most of its damage in the third inning.
After the Falcons built a 5-1 lead thanks to a 5-run first inning, Niles came back to cut the deficit to 5-3 in the top of third, but Jefferson exploded in the bottom half of the inning.
After Niles pitcher Murphy Miller got a strikeout to start the inning, Cole Erdel drew a one-out walk, Colten Wilber followed with a single and Brandon Reinke smacked a single to left to score Erdel.
Ethan Pawlowski reached on an error, scoring Wilber and pushing the lead to 7-3.
It looked like Niles (6-5, 1-4) was going to escape after Tyler Maylish lined out to center for the second out of the inning, but the next 4 Falcons who stepped to the plate — Joey Piscsalko, Matt Barber, Chris Wittenmyer and Ryan Zindash — all singled and eventually scored.
All told, the Falcons sent 14 batters to the plate in the third, scoring 8 runs on 6 singles and drawing 3 walks.
“Pitching and defense that’s what you win games on,” Niles coach Mike Guarnieri said. “When you give them extra outs, you can’t defend the walks. It makes it tough to win. It just goes back to pitching and defense.
“We gave them an extra out (in the third), then a couple walks and that’s a good baseball team over there. You give them so many opportunities, they’re going to get you.”
The runs came at an opportune time for the Falcons as the Dragons made Jefferson starter Wilber work.
“Wilber was a little tired today, for some reason,” Barber said. “He was a little spent. We were off the weekend then back to school and normal activities, so I just don’t think he had the total energy he needed today, but he battled.”
Wilber only lasted 3 innings, but he minimized the damage Niles inflicted in the top of the third.
After the first 3 batters of the inning singled to load the bases, Wilber was able to get out of the inning, allowing only 2 runs and leaving 3 Dragon base runners stranded.
Sam Caskey took over for Wilber in the top of the fourth, giving up no hits over the final 4 innings and allowing just 1 unearned run on 2 walks.
Barber said the early runs allowed him to have a little longer leash with Wilber and Caskey, who labored his first inning of work throwing 27 pitches before retiring 9-straight batters over the final 3 innings in improving to 1-1.
“Sam did a good job... Sam’s done a good job all year and so has Colten,” Barber said. “(The early runs) made it a lot easier knowing it’s a Monday, we didn’t have to rush to get (Wilber) out. It allowed us to be able to extend him a little longer and the same thing with Sam.
“It let our pitchers get a little extended work today.”
Zindash led the Falcons offense with 2 hits and 3 RBI. Piscsalko also had 2 hits and an RBI while Matt Barber had 2 hits and 2 RBI. Ethan Pawlowski had the only extra base hit of the game with a double and a run scored.
No. 9 hitter Reinke got in on the action with 2 singles and an RBI.
Overall, Barber thought his team had some good at-bats.
“Some approaches that haven’t been there lately were right there today and it was a big help,” he said. “Just get on base, no matter how. We did that today.”
Barber said getting another conference win is certainly big as his team looks for its third-straight AAC crown.
“(It’s big), especially in this league,” he said. “I’m pretty happy, coming back from Florida we were 1-4 now we’re 8-5, so we’ve won 7 of 8 since we’ve been here.”
But, as Barber told his team after the game, the win means little if Jefferson loses the rematch at Niles today.
“That’s exactly what I just talked, this score means nothing unless you do it again tomorrow,” he said.