Only a few minutes after making a potentially pivotal defensive play, McCutcheon shortstop Myles Hann stood at the plate for a crucial at-bat.
The junior admits one scenario can influence the other.
“I was just trying to help my team out defensively and bring it back with the bat,” Hann said.
Hann doubled leading off the bottom of the eighth and eventually scored the game’s winning run on Jeff’s second error of the inning in McCutcheon’s 8-7 home victory on Friday.
McCutcheon (8-2, 3-1 Hoosier Crossroads Conference) dealt resurgent Jeff its first conference loss. The Bronchos (9-6, 4-1) have bounced back from last season’s 5-13 conference record.
The teams plan to conclude the series with today’s 3 p.m. game at Loeb Stadium.
“Whoever wins these two is going to be the most dominant team in the area,” said McCutcheon senior Austin Kiracofe, who scored two runs, drove in two more and earned the pitching victory in relief. “It’s basically setting an example. If we go out there and beat them twice, they’re going to think twice about playing us in the sectional.”
Hann made a diving stop of Bailey Perdue’s base-hit bid up the middle in the top of the eighth. He then led off the bottom of the eighth with a double against Jeff reliever Austin Albrecht.
After Andrew Roginski walked and Mason Bruce reached on Peter Ripke’s fielding error, the Bronchos brought the infield in with Kiracofe due up. He grounded to third on a 1-0 pitch, but Blake Nugent’s throw home pulled Reid Pittard’s foot off of the plate, allowing Hann to score.
“I don’t know if we were ready to play that first couple of innings,” Jeff coach Scott McTagartt said. “They hit the ball really well to start off the game, and it took us a while to get going. They started off and made us play from behind it felt like the entire game.”
McCutcheon led 5-0 after two innings, but Lafayette Jeff scored five runs in the third with two outs. Ripke’s three-run home run just to the right of the 381 mark in dead center keyed that rally.
The Mavericks intentionally walked Ripke with first base open and two outs in the fourth, and Logan Sowers coaxed a comebacker from Jeff senior Griff Clark. McCutcheon again intentionally passed Ripke to load the bases in the sixth, but this time Clark capitalized with a two-run single that gave the Bronchos a 7-6 lead.
“Every time they do that, I want to go up there and hit the ball out of the park,” said Clark, 0-for-3 before that hit.
Hann led off the bottom of the sixth with a single and, two outs later, scored on Kiracofe’s single. Kiracofe then took over on the mound, retiring six straight Bronchos.
McCutcheon is going a bit deeper into its staff for innings in conference games. Top pitcher Justin Curry has not pitched since last week due to a bout of tendonitis. Another potential starter, Hank Gray, has still not pitched this season due to a shoulder injury.
“They’re doing a great job for us; they’re spotting balls, doing their job,” said Hann, who went 3-for-4 and scored three runs. “We’ve just got to stay behind them as a defense and keep getting runs on the board, and give them confidence to let them throw the ball and not aim it or walk guys.”