NORTH ROBINSON – Jake Johnson looked more like Superman on the baseball diamond than a 16-year old sophomore member of the Colonel Crawford Eagles as went the distance on the mound in a 2-1 N10 victory over the Wynford Royals.
He allowed just two hits while giving up a single run, which was unearned. He struck out three and walked four.
What may be just as impressive was the performance of the Eagles’ defense behind Johnson. Colonel Crawford (3-7, 1-4) committed just two errors, neither of which came back to hurt the team.
Colonel Crawford head coach Joe Swartzmiller was not used to seeing such a dominating defensive performance, but he said he was happy to see his team come around and play well.
“This is probably the best defense I have ever seen,” Swartzmiller said. “It all starts with pitching. When you throw strikes and force ground balls and fly balls, your defense is going to look pretty good. When you throw balls, you are going to put pressure on your defense, and that is when the mistakes happen.”
Mistakes also usually happen with youth, but was not the case for the Eagles, who start just four seniors. Swartzmiller said he recognizes that with his young team, there are going to be ups and downs and that the win was a huge confidence booster for his ball club.
“We are still learning. We are very young and are still making some inexperience mistakes, but it is coming along and we are improving quite a bit. We responded well after the 4-0 loss yesterday and we have been preaching to let go of the past and concentrate on the future. I think they have really bought into that after today.”
Not only was Johnson a force on the mound, but he drove in both of the Eagles’ runs at the plate going 1-1 with a two RBI single and drawing two walks. He admits that it all started with being comfortable on the hill.
“I pounded the strike zone and just kept throwing hard and kept my head in the game,” Johnson said. “Our defense has been very consistent all year long. They back me up very well. Being in the zone on the mound is one of the best feelings. When you throw strikes and no one is hitting off of you, only good things can happen from there.”
The Eagles only had a pair of hits; Johnson’s single and junior Derek Burkhart’s single were the only hits in the book. The third inning saw the only scoring on the night from both teams.
Wynford (3-3, 2-2) started it off with a run in the top of the third on a leadoff walk by sophomore Jalon Brown followed by a single by freshmen Wyatt Smith to put runners on first and second with no outs. It was time for Wynford head coach Joe Staab to get to work manufacturing a run. Junior Alex Crall laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners up. Senior Austin Shutler drove in Brown with a sacrifice fly for the team’s only run.
For the Eagles, the third inning was a bit more of taking advantage of Wynford’s only error on the night after sophomore Kaden Schell slapped a two-hopper to third and reached on an error. Burkhart then hit a liner to right field that allowed Schell to move to third. Burkhart then stole second to put two runners in scoring position. That set the stage for Johnson to rope a liner to left-center to bring home two runs. And that was all Johnson and the Eagles needed to earn the win.
Staab admits that the Royals could have done more to win the game.
“We did not compete enough at the plate,” Staab said. “There were some inside pitches where we could have turned and let it hit us so that we could get some base runners. We went up to try to put the ball in play instead of trying to hit the ball hard. We were trying not to make a mistake and not get out and when you do that you hit bloopers and soft ground balls. We should have been more aggressive.”
The Eagles will play host to the Bucyrus Redmen on Wednesday afternoon; the Royals will be hosting Mohawk to continue N10 play.