The plays which have been vexing the Wapakoneta Redskins in the past four games instead bewitched the New Bremen Cardinals on Saturday at Redskin Field.
The Redskins captured an 8-0 win against the Cardinals behind a stellar pitching performance from senior Brandon Miller to end a four-game losing streak, while the Cardinals wasted a gutsy performance on the mound by pitcher Trevor Kitzmiller to fall to 2-7 on the season.
“I don’t know if the monkey is off our back yet, I just think we have to continue to show up and play our game and expect to win when we show up at the field,” Wapakoneta varsity coach Jason Brandt said as his team climbed to 3-4 on the season. “We did a pretty good job today by coming out and playing our game. Brandon threw the ball very well, we played solid defense, but we had too many strikeouts with runners in scoring position — we had five today and that is something we have to get better at in the future.”
Those were the only strikeouts in the game for the Redskins.
In the four-game losing streak, the Redskins committed 15 errors and other misplays. On Saturday, they committed only one error on a foul pop-up, but no flood of mishaps occurred.
New Bremen varsity coach Josh Bowersock thought it came down to Miller making his pitches and keeping his squad off-balance and some mental mistakes.
“I thought the effort was there today,” Bowersock said. “We hit the ball hard a couple of times, but we hit it right at somebody. They had a swinging bunt and a seeing eye single between first and second base where nobody decided to go and get it — it was just stuff like that. They got the breaks and we didn’t.”
Miller needed only 92 pitches to shut out the Cardinals. He surrendered only two hits and struck out seven Cardinal batters in the complete game win. It was his first start on the hill this season.
He struggled with his control through the first two innings of the game, throwing 44 pitches to the Cardinals first eight batters.
In the first inning, his pitch count climbed to 21 pitches when on the 22nd his defense turned a double play on a soft liner to second baseman Nick Buchanan who fired to shortstop Josh Apple to catch the runner off second.
Miller struck out the side around a one-hit single by New Bremen third baseman Luke Schweiterman in the third inning as he replicated the 22-pitch count. From the third inning on, Miller only never threw more than 12 pitches in an inning, needing only seven in the fifth and nine pitches in the fourth.
“He hasn’t really had an opportunity to throw this year because of the way our schedule has been we have only ready needed three or four guys,” Brandt said. “We are going to need him coming up later in the season. After the first couple of innings, he was able to throw strikes and he did very well. With us being able to play more consistently should help us in the coming weeks as well.”
Miller’s outing impressed Bowersock, who played for the Redskins more than a decade ago.
“He pitched a heckuva a ball game,” Bowersock said. “He really kept us off balance. He was to keep our time off just enough that we couldn’t hit the ball real square all the time.”
Brandt discussed needing improvement from his hitters, irritated by his line-up striking out five times in the game with runners in scoring position.
With senior second baseman Alex Koch nursing an injury, Brandt has been forced to find a new lead-off hitter.
“We are trying to find a line-up that will work consistently for us,” Brandt said. “Looking at the game, I thought Keaton Zwiebel (designated hitter) did a great job today in the nine hole spot. He got on base, had a nice squeeze bunt. Brandon we put in the lead-off spot and he got on a base the first couple of times.
“Up and down the line-up all the way through guys did a good job,” he said. “AJ (Etzkorn) came in and had a good double off the bench in the fifth. We are looking for guys as well who can come off the bench and be able to come in cold and get a hit.”
Senior catcher Brandon Schrieber and Apple both went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs in the game. Senior center fielder Johnny Crawford went 1-for-3 with 2 RBIs and Zwiebel went 1-for-1 with two walks. He drove in one run on the hit and another scored when the throw from the pitcher to first went over the first baseman’s head.
The Redskins scored twice in the first when Miller led off the game with a triple and scored on a single by Crawford. Schrieber plated Crawford with a single.
Wapak tacked on a run in the second when Zwiebel walked and came around on a single by Apple. He scored again in the fourth on a fielder’s choice by Apple.
The Redskins scored four times in the fifth starting with Etzkorn’s double down the right field line. Schrieber, third baseman Marshall Gerlach and Zwiebel followed with singles.
Starting on the mound for the Cardinals, Kitzmiller gave a gutsy effort. He threw 108 pitches through 4 1/3 innings and surrendered all eight runs on eight hits and four walks. He also struck out four before being relieved.
“Trevor really battled today,” Bowersock said. “He really tried to make some big pitches and he usually makes those pitches. He really had to work hard today.”
He sees his team making strides early this season despite the spotty schedule due to cold and inclement weather.
The Redskins travel to Kenton to play the Wildcats at 5 p.m. today after postponing their game Friday. They also play the Elida Bulldogs and Celina Bulldogs this week.
The New Bremen Cardinals face the Coldwater Cavaliers and the Minster Wildcats this week.
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