NOBLESVILLE – Fans who showed up 15 minutes late to watch state baseball powers Zionsville and Noblesville on Tuesday night had a lot of catching up to do.
That’s because the Eagles provided plenty of early fireworks. The first five Zionsville batters scored to give the Class 4A second-ranked Eagles a five-run lead as they cruised to a 7-3 win over the Millers.
Meanwhile, Zionsville senior ace Nick Prather (4-0), a Florida Atlantic recruit, stymied the Noblesville bats most of the game. He allowed five hits, three walks and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings. He dropped his earned-run average to 0.40.
Seventh-ranked Noblesville scored its runs in the seventh after Prather was pulled as senior Jordan Cox relieved.
“I was proud of him,” Zionsville coach Jered Moore said of Prather. “He was throwing all three of his pitches for strikes tonight. I think it was the hardest he’s been hit this season, but he battled back. His fastball was up to 94 (mph) tonight, and he was throwing his changeup and curveball for strikes.”
The win keeps Zionsville (11-0-1, 4-0) in first place in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference. Noblesville (9-3, 5-2), which didn’t pitch its ace Cory Conway on Tuesday, still has chances to beat the Eagles in games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
Noblesville’s starter, sophomore Tyler Owens, was tagged for five hits and five runs in the first inning before settling down.
Zionsville senior center fielder Jacob Hurtubise and senior right fielder Nolan Elsbury led off the game with a double and single, and Hurtubise scored on an RBI fielder’s choice from Jordan Cox, who started the game at first base. An RBI single from senior second baseman Drew Bertram scored Elsbury to make it 2-0.
Leading 3-0, senior left fielder Jack Pilcher’s single scored Bertram and Prather to make it 5-0.
“Noblesville’s a good team, so we wanted to come out aggressive, and the guys were ready,” Moore said. “They were looking for pitches they could drive. They were able to come through.”
The Eagles tacked on runs in the fourth and sixth innings to make it 7-0. Noblesville struggled against Prather, but the Millers cut the lead to four runs in the seventh inning on two hits, a walk and a hit batter.
The Millers, though, stranded seven base runners, including runners at first and second base with no outs in the fifth inning and runners at first and second with one out in the sixth.
“They ambushed us early in the game,” Noblesville coach Justin Keever said. “We didn’t make a couple of plays. Give them credit. They squared up on some balls.
“But I like the way our guys regrouped. We had some good at bats and squared up on some balls. But (Prather’s) changeup kept us off balance.”
Zionsville finished with 11 hits. Bertram led the way with three hits and an RBI for the Eagles, while Hurtubise added two hits and an RBI.
Senior right fielder Austin Shirley had a hit and two walks for the Millers.
The teams play Wednesday at Zionsville and Thursday at Noblesville in games which will have key implications in the conference title race.