By Chet Piotrowski
Charleston went to Effingham on Saturday morning in the hopes of creating chaos in the Apollo Conference baseball standings.
Things didn’t go according to plan.
The Trojans pitching staff, beset by injuries, issued 12 walks, two with the bases loaded, before Effingham’s Jackson Lee piled on a grand slam that gave the Hearts a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth en route to a 7-0 victory at Paul Smith Field.
“Two good games, fun and exciting games,” Charleston varsity coach Derrick Landrus said. “We knew coming in that their pitching is really tough. We started Ty Coartney in the first game. Someone said ‘When was the last time he started a game? And I said probably never’. He was a reliever on our travel teams growing up. He’s pitched pretty well being a two-, three-inning guy. We dodged walks. I think we walked 11 or 12 guys and almost got away. We were one out away but didn’t.”
Coartney went 2 1/3 innings, giving up no runs on seven walks and five strikeouts.
Dane Herrington and Cade Landrus followed, and so did the walks. The duo gave up five walks leading to the fifth-inning runs. Herrington and Landrus were credited with three earned runs apiece. Landrus had one strikeout.
“I bring in my son pitching and he’s been hurt, and (he) hardly pitched any bullpen,” Landrus said. “He wants to be out there. He’s good pitcher, and we know that. A couple fouls ball and another couple walks and just couldn’t get out of the inning. A big swing by Lee broke it open.”
Landrus said he didn’t think they were overmatched even though Lee is a great pitcher. The walks just came back to haunt them.
“Sooner or later, it’s going to bite you,” Charleston’s Cory Spour said of the 12 walks. “It got to us. One pitch away and we would have been out of the inning. But we gave up six. Nothing you can do now but turn the page.”
Lee, who entered withg a 0.00 earned-run average, gave up two hits and struck out six before exiting in the sixth inning.
In the second game, the Trojans found themselves down 4-3 entering the seventh inning. Coartney had ripped a two-run homer but had done little since then.
Charleston’s Spour, who admittedly had a bad day hitting, got the Trojans back in the final inning.
“It was a big spot,” Spour said. “I was just trying to focus. I didn’t hit well today. I just kept focusing and make my last at-bat count.”
Count it did.
After taking a pitch and missing another, both for strikes, Spour fouled off five straight pitches before connecting on a 3-2 fastball for a single that drove in Caydin Reed and William Applegate for a 5-4 Charleston lead.
“It was 3-2 and a guy on second and third,” Spour said. “I was taking fastball the whole time. Early in the count, he threw some off-speed pitches, but they were up and away. I seemed to handle them OK.”
Landrus said he wanted his two seniors to win the game.
“He had a tough day up to that point there,” Landrus said. “Its’ a point where you can’t bunt. I knew if we bunted, they’d walk Coartney again and I wanted Coartney and Spour, our two seniors, to win the game. That’s what they did.”
Spour said while the first game was the more important of the two, the win gave them confidence that they can play with any team. “While only the first one counted (for the conference standings), it shows that we can stick with any team and compete.”
Spour and Landrus complimented Daugherty for his performance after giving up one hits, striking out four and not allowing a walk in three innings.
“I thought Daugherty was unbelievable coming in down 4-3 with guys on second and third and getting out of that inning and closing the game,” Landrus said.
“We had Peyton Daugherty come in from left field without hardly warming up and holding runners to second and third with zero outs,” Spour said. “That was the change in the game right there.”
Second game starter Kendall Pankey pitched 4 1/3 innings gave up four runs with two earned, struck out six and issued one walk.
“With our pitching staff whatever you want to call it – short-handed, some guys not pitching for us – we started Pankey in game two because we knew he gave us a good chance,” Landrus said. “We wanted to get out of here with a win. With the conference this year, if you lose more than a couple you might not have a chance to win anyway.”
Now, the team’s motivation is to win five straight conference games.
“Our goal is to win out,” Spour said. “We plan on going 5-2 in the conference. We just plan to play good ball and be solid all around.”
“We’re going to try to win five in a row from here on out,” Landrus said. “We wanted to get a win today. They’re a good team and it’s their first loss. We got a win and we’re happy.”
The Trojans now 11-2 and looking for their first Apollo Conference standing win, will travel back to Effingham and face St. Anthony on Monday at Evergreen Park at 4:30 p.m.
“I know they’re undefeated and they have a city series coming up. Maybe they’ll save their pitching?” Landrus laughed. “We need to see good pitching. We know they’re undefeated and they’re a team just like Effingham. If you play well you’ll be in the game. If you don’t, you’ll get beat. It should be a fun game and we’re looking forward to it.”