When the first batter of an inning reaches base in high school baseball, more often than not that player is going to come around to score.
It doesn’t matter, if they get on by hit, by walk or by error, the numbers are still the same.
“Statistically, we know that if the lead-off batter gets on in high school baseball, he scores anywhere between 60-70 percent of the time,” Oshkosh North coach Troy Schaefer said. “If we let that lead-off runner on, we’re fighting statistics and they don’t play in our favor.”
That was the case in nearly every inning for the Spartans.
In six of the seven innings, Appleton North had its lead-off runner reach base and the Lightning scored in four of those frames in a 4-1 win over the Spartans at E.J. Schneider Field on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The Spartans, who were coming off a 26-0 thumping of Fond du Lac, never got its offense going against Lightning hurler Drew Eastman, who allowed just four hits — all singles — and a walk.
“Eastman’s a very good pitcher,” Schaefer said. “He’s great at mixing pitches and I don’t think they ever saw the same pitch twice. Great pitching always beats great hitting.”
Matt Luft, who had two of the Spartans’ hits in the contest, said it was Eastman’s off-speed pitches that really had the Oshkosh North hitters off balance.
“We didn’t know when he was throwing the off speed pitch, and when he did throw one it was a pretty good offspeed pitch,” Luft said. “All we needed was to get a couple of guys on and we probably would have erupted.”
The Spartans (1-1, 1-1) had runners at first and second with one out in the second, but failed to scored.
They didn’t threaten again until fifth when Sam Hawley’s perfectly-placed bunt up the third-base line allowed Luft to race home from third. Luft had led off the inning with a single.
“I felt good at the plate, I saw the ball well,” Luft said. “He gave me a pitch inside where my hot spot is and I just took between the gap and got a couple hits out of it.”
Alex Hintze took the loss for the Spartans despite allowing just two hits over his five innings of work. He struck out seven but walked five and allowed three runs — two of which were unearned, as the Titans committed six errors, each of which came with Hintze on the mound.
“We lost the freebie battle really bad today,” Schaefer said. “We were not good in that department today and when you face a high quality team, you can’t be giving away bases that’s for sure.
“A credit to our guys, even with all of that, we were still pretty close.”
Notes: Alex Madden and Brandon Schroeder had the other hits in the game for Oshkosh North. … Luft pitched the final two innings for the Spartans, allowing one run on one hit with one strikeout. … Eastman finished with one walk and five strikeouts.
Game ball: Matt Luft, for his 2-for-3 performance at the plate, accounting for half of his team’s hits.
Numbers game: 14, the number of errors, walks, hit batters and wild pitches combined for Oshkosh North on Saturday, compared to just one for Appleton North in the same categories..
Appleton North…010 111 0 — 4 3 0
Oshkosh North…000 010 0 — 1 4 6
WP: Drew Eastman (7 IP, 1 BB, 5 Ks). LP: Alex Hintze (5 IP, 5 BBs, 7 Ks).
Leading hitters: AN — Alex Hemwood 2B; Dan Rothbauer RBI; Tyce Wheeler RBI. ON — Matt Luft 2×3; Sam Hawley RBI.