It was a typical victory for Charleston on Tuesday evening – scrappy base running, timely hitting and, perhaps more than anything, multiple pitchers combining to shut down an opponent.
In this case, a 5-1 victory over Vandalia that lifts the Trojans to an 8-1 overall record.
Coach Derrick Landrus was not sure what to expect after having lost the entire Spring 2020 season to the pandemic. That’s why it’s the first time in 17 seasons that coach Derrick Landrus hasn’t talked about team goals.
“We have had the goal of 20 wins, winning a regional and winning/finishing in the top of the conference ever since I’ve been here,” said Landrus. “There are so many variables. Some of the challenges like COVID and how it has affected our players, football to baseball crossover, injuries, and some of our players not playing in almost two years.”
But he seems to have found an approach that has worked on the mound. He has employed 15 pitchers this season, often using three to four at a time like in Tuesday’s victory where James Hess, Peyton Daughtery, Kyler Sweeney and Ty Coartney combined to allow six hits and one run across seven innings.
Charleston has used 15 pitchers this season led by James Hess, who has not allowed a run in 10 2/3 innings while striking out 18 and limiting opponents to a 1.84 batting average. The sophomore allowed three hits to Vandalia in three scoreless innings to start the game.
“We are probably going to play more games than anybody around where we will have to dig deep into the pitching staff,” Landrus said before the season began. “We have faith in all of our pitchers, they have worked hard for the last couple of months. We have some of our top pitchers coming off injury and many of them are coming out of football and will take a while to get ready. Twenty-seven out of 28 kids in our program pitch so we are going to play games as much as we can.”
The Trojans staff has a cumulative ERA of 2.46 and WHIP of 1.23. Pitchers have also shown both power and control in striking out 80 and walking only 22 in 57 innings.
And this all without James’s brother, Ben, an ace who signed with Indiana this past winter. He is questionable this season. Ben Hess had gone 6-3 during his sophomore season, striking out 84 and posting a 2.98 ERA.
“I have four or five guys that I consider starters, but three of those are out right now so we are piecing it together,” Landrus said last month. “We do that some on a normal year anyway to keep guys available for certain games. The 15 guys that have pitched have been really, really good.”
Charleston relied on its speed on the bases to go ahead Tuesday. Tied at 1 in the fifth inning, the Trojans scored three times on a sacrifice bunt by William Applegate that scored Caydin Reed and a dropped fly ball hit by Cory Spour to right that allowed another run. Spour took second on the error, stole third and then scored on a balk to make it 4-1.
Spour stole four of the Trojans’ 10 bases in the game. The senior has seven overall, one behind both Applegate and Jeb Vanatta. Charleston has swiped 42 bases in 57 innings.
The Trojans only had six hits and did not have an extra-base hit, but they walked four times and pieced together hits when needed – typical of the season so far.
Cade Landrus has CHS’s only home run and the team has just eight doubles and a triple for an above-average .799 OPS, but the Trojans have an impressive .435 on-base percentage, a. 305 batting average and have scored 70 runs in nine games – a 7.7 average per game.
Reed, who is hitting a team-best .500, drove in one run and scored two more against Vandalia while Dane Herrington went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
The Trojans next face St. Joseph-Ogden and Paris on Thursday and Friday, respectively, before kicking off the Apollo season against Teutopolis on Saturday.