Baseball is a game of inches.
On Tuesday night, those inches favored the Harrison Raiders.
Three infield singles, which very easily could have been three outs, led to the game’s only two runs as Harrison (10-1) celebrated its debut in the Class 4A rankings with a 2-0 victory over rival McCutcheon.
Rhett Baxter singled off the glove of a diving Brady Douglas, scoring Matthew Roop and Matt McConnell in the bottom of the sixth inning for the game’s only runs.
“I’ve been in a slump lately and I figured it was my time to do something,” said Baxter, who ended a stretch of 17 hitless at-bats. “It wasn’t pretty, but I made it happen.”
Baxter’s offense was outdone by his spectacular pitching.
Mixing a variety of breaking balls and fastballs, Baxter befuddled McCutcheon’s potent lineup, striking out eight and allowing just three hits. Baxter has not allowed a run in 19 2/3 innings this season.
“Rhett and coach (Brett) Hanthorn had a great game plan. They pitched backwards the whole game,” Harrison coach Pat Lowrey said. “They did a great job of mixing it up and keeping him off balance.”
On Tuesday, the Mavericks (8-2) nearly had the first run of the season off the Harrison senior.
Braden Giroux singled to lead off the third inning and the speedy outfielder advanced to second on a ground ball. With two outs, Sean Roginski slapped a hard grounder to the left side that Harrison third baseman Anthony Allen snagged on the dive in time to throw to first and retire Roginski.
“We had an opportunity early in the game and couldn’t cash in a couple of times and when they had their opportunity, they did it.” McCutcheon coach Jake Burton said. “Baxter mixed it up pretty well and our guys were a little tentative.
Opposite Baxter, Walter Talcott tossed a brilliant game.
The McCutcheon senior held Harrison to a lone single, Carter Bridge’s two-out rope to left in the first, through five innings.
Matthew Roop hit a hard grounder up the middle. Mason Bruce snagged it but Roop legged out the infield hit. Matt McConnell followed with a harder liner back at the pitcher that Talcott got a glove on. The ball came off hit glove in what would’ve been a double play had the catch been made with Harrison executing a hit-and-run.
After Jake Fernung sacrificed the runners over and Bridge being awarded first on an intentional walk, Baxter gave himself all the runs he would need to finish off a gem where he allowed two doubles, one by Bruce and one by Roginski, and Giroux’s single.
“Rhett pitched amazing,” Allen said. “His curveball was perfect and he was getting hitters out and seemed to be right on.”
The Mavericks had an opportunity to strike in the top of the sixth with runners on second and third with two outs. But Baxter was as calm as ever, spinning a two-strike curveball across the inside corner to get out of the jam.
“I am more comfortable this year,” Baxter said. “I never get real nervous and I was able to keep them off balance with my curveball.”