BENTON — Through 4 1-3 innings Saturday, Benton pitcher Jordan Shaffer didn’t need a lot of help from either his offense or defense.
When Shaffer made his lone mistake of the game, however, the Tigers were there to back him up.
Shaffer pitched six strong innings, striking out 10 and allowing just two runs, as Benton stayed perfect in District 1-4A with a 9-2 win against Northwood.
“In the bullpen, I felt really well, locating all my pitches,” Shaffer said. “I just brought it out to the mound with me.”
Shaffer (4-1) was especially strong early, striking out eight in the first three innings.
Armed with strong command, Shaffer pitched off his fastball, repeatedly jumping ahead of Northwood’s hitters with a fastball and mixing in a curveball and change-up later in the count.
That recipe led to six swinging strikeouts, including one that came after Northwood (16-7, 1-2) loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth.
“We were not aggressive at the plate,” Northwood coach Darien Dukes said. “We took too many fastballs with guys on base. When it came time, when we had him on the ropes, we just looked at fastballs. You just can’t do that.”
An inning after Northwood missed its first true scoring opportunity, Slade Baker popped a two-run home run that cut Benton’s lead to 4-2. Shaffer regrouped and notched strikeout No. 10 later in the inning, and his teammates took care of things from there.
Instead of allowing Northwood starter Don Hodge (3-3) to keep the momentum in the visitor’s dugout, shortstop Cameron Horton drove a first-pitch leadoff double to center field and Jaret Gill coaxed a one-out walk from Hodge after a 10-pitch battle.
After a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch left Benton (17-9, 4-0) with runners on second and third with two outs, T.J. Anderson chopped a two-run single past third base to re-establish Benton’s four-run advantage.
“Our offense (Saturday) had a great approach,” Benton coach J.D. Stephens said. “It carried over from (Friday against Minden). We just trusted it. Put runners on, move runners over and get runners in. We scored two or three runs without even getting hits. Those were productive outs.”
The Tigers’ defense helped Shaffer close out the sixth in style, as Horton made a nice play, charging a slow roller and turning it into the third out — his throw just nipping Zane Corbell at first.
In the seventh, first baseman Branson Woodward made a leaping grab of a line drive for the game’s final out.
“Whenever they need to make plays, they make plays,” said Shaffer, who scattered five hits in his six innings. “I like having them out there, because I can let the other team hit the ball, and they’ll make the plays.”