Benton’s Jackson Rutledge said a key to the Tigers’ successful season so far has been to not make moments bigger than they really are.
Rutledge followed that mantra Tuesday as he maneuvered around Northwood runners all night in a 6-0 win.
The right-hander stranded eight Northwood runners – not including two that were picked off – with four runners reaching scoring position.
“I didn’t change anything when runners got on, just continued throwing strikes,” Rutledge said. “They hit ground balls when you continue to throw strikes.
“I’ve gotten better, still not as good as I can be though. We’re not making moments bigger than they are, especially when runners get on. We’re keeping it small, keeping it simple.”
Rutledge scattered seven hits while striking out nine in the win, Benton’s (14-7, 4-0 District 1-4A) fifth straight and nine of the last 10.
Benton’s bats executed in the first inning with a pair of sacrifice flies by Cameron Horton and Aaron Sheppard to score courtesy runner Tyler Stephens and Wade Grubbs for a 2-0 edge.
But Northwood pitcher Cole Barnette locked down after that, scattering three hits over the next four innings to keep the Falcons down 2-0 heading into the sixth inning.
Benton’s offense exploded for four runs in the frame as Cody Norris (3-for-3) started the scoring by singling in Jaret Gill (3-for-3) for a 3-0 edge.
Josh Scherer singled in Branson Woodward before Norris and Scherer scored on a two-run error.
“Timely plays and timely pitching,” said Benton coach J.D. Stephens about the win. “You don’t want to get into the habit of putting runners in scoring position, especially in a key district game, … but the key for our guys was not panicking with the baseball.
“We’ll need to continue to pitch … and we’ve been as consistent as anybody in the state on the mound. We’ve been up and down (on offense), and we’re trying to press forward with a team approach. We are one or two at-bats away from clicking at the plate as a team.”
For Northwood, Timmy Yelverton (2-for-4) and Tristen Moore (2-for-3) led the offense.
Coach Darien Dukes said his Falcons (4-7, 1-2) are finding themselves after the weather limited his team’s practice and game time.
“We gave (Benton) seven or eight outs on the basepaths, and we ran ourselves out of some innings,” Dukes said. “(Barnette) kept us in the game, but he got a little tired once his pitch-count got around 80.
“We’re certainly capable, and we’ve got some good, young athletes.”