A northwest wind dropping temperatures to near freezing failed to stop the Wapakoneta Redskins hot bats in a Western Buckeye League game against the Elida Bulldogs.
Junior shortstop Josh Apple paced the Redskins smoking three hits and collecting two RBIs, while junior starting pitcher Johnny Crawford allowed only one frozen rope hit in five innings of a 9-1 victory.
With the win, the Redskins improve to 10-1 overall and 3-0 in the WBL, while Elida drops to 3-9 on the season and 1-2 in league play.
Crawford, who threw 88 pitches while facing 20 batters, struck out four of the first six batters he faced and faced his only real jam in the fifth inning.
“He gave us five solid innings and gave up only one solid hit in his five innings of work,” Redskin varsity coach Jason Brandt said after the game. “He worked ahead in the count again just like he did last week (in a start Saturday against Lima Central Catholic). He gave us all that we could ask for on a day like today.
“You either want to be here or you don’t want to be here, so I give credit to our guys because they came ready to play,” he said.
Crawford came ready to pitch, mixing a fastball in the mid-80s with a curve and change-up dipping as low as 71. He walked one batter with two outs in the third, and he recorded two outs in the fourth before a batter reached on an error.
The 6-foot-2 southpaw then worked out a jam in the fifth inning. After inducing a pop-up to third baseman Marshall Gerlach, Crawford watched Elida’s Brandon Stinson hit a hard line drive to center for the first and only hit he would surrender. Stinson moved to second on a wild pitch during a four-pitch walk to the next batter.
After striking out Dillon Slusher, Crawford issued a walk to load the bases, but Apple made a nice play on a sharp grounder to end the threat and his stint on the mound.
“He throws the ball real well,” Bulldog varsity coach Todd Grapner said. “When we saw that he was pitching, we knew it was going to be a tough one. I thought we had some strong at-bats. We hit the ball hard into this wind and had some good long at-bats, we were fouling off pitches, so I thought we were competing pretty well against him.
“He is a really good pitcher so I am not disappointed in our effort.”
Junior right-hander Dominic Campos relieved, working out of a two-hit, two-walk jam in the sixth in surrendering the only run to Elida. He struck out the last two batters in the sixth and recorded a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
The Redskins hitters also came ready to play. They scored at least one run in every inning of the game.
“The biggest thing I was worried about at the beginning of the year was only having about 140 returning at-bats,” Brandt said. “I think we knew they could hit, but it was just getting them to believe in themselves and with the new bat standards taking effect getting the feel of those bats.
“I think we have done a nice job, but I still think we haven’t hit as well as we can,” he said. “I think we have done as well as we can to date especially facing some of the nice pitchers we have, but we can accomplish more.”
Offensively, Crawford started the scoring crossing the plate on a passed ball in the first inning.
Apple, who led the team going 3-for-5 on the day, drove in third baseman Marshall Gerlach, who walked with one out and who moved into scoring position on a single by left fielder Dylan Knoch, to plate the only run in the second inning.
Brandt praised Apple’s off-season work ethic for his early season success.
“Josh continues to swing the bat well,” Brandt said. “Josh is one of our great listeners that we have. We tore his swing apart, about a week before the season, and had him reinvent it. He’s listened and has worked really hard at it. He does a lot of things with the bat.
After Elida pitcher Jake Porter struggled with control in the third inning issuing four walks and throwing two wild pitches resulting in designated hitter Chandler Kaeck and catcher Brandon Schreiber to score.
The Redskins did most of the damage scoring three runs in the fourth inning as they alternated singles and walks to do most of the damage. Apple led off with a single to left field, followed by a walk to Crawford. Miller singled in Apple as the Elida first baseman struggled to catch a wind blown popup behind the bag in shallow right field.
Kaeck was then walked to load the bases before Schreiber drove a single into centerfield to plate Crawford. Keaton Zwiebel, pinch-running for Kaeck, scored the third run of the inning.
Knoch scored on a single by Apple in the sixth and Schreiber scored on a passed ball with Gerlach at the plate.
Brandt is looking forward to warmer temperatures for games at Bath at 5 p.m. Friday and against Sidney at home at 1 p.m. Saturday, but he credited his players for battling the conditions and the Bulldogs.
“In the past, I think some of the teams we’ve had here in Wapak would have rolled over with this cold weather,” Brandt said. “We came out ready to play. We hit the ball well and did some things when they walked batters. We moved runners up and we were aggressive on the base paths.”