Without much noise or fanfare, the Providence High School baseball team has started the season in unbeaten fashion.
The Pioneers moved to 10-0 after winning a doubleheader last Saturday, taking out Austin, 3-2, in a tightly-contested affair before blowing out Borden, 22-0, in the second game of the day. Pitcher Jake Lewis threw a no-hitter against the Braves, but the star of the day was freshman pitcher Joe Wilkinson. Wilkinson, who throws his fastball in the mid-to-upper 80’s on average, threw a complete game with one earned run allowed, three hits and seven strikeouts.
“We got a great performance from our freshman Wilkinson,” Pioneers head coach Scott Hornung said. “It’s nice to have someone so young with a strong arm like him, just a very good competitor on the mound.”
To get to a 10-0 record, the Pioneers have relied on solid pitching from Lewis, Wilkinson, Tre Watson, and Reece Davis among others, but in recent days, the team’s hitting has come alive. In their last four games, the Pioneers have combined to outscore their opponents 51-4, and it all starts with leadoff hitter Justin Betz.
“He’s been getting a lot of hits to drive in important runs for us in close games,” Hornung said, adding, “we have a lot of quality players up and down the lineup and we’ve had different players step up and do well for us.”
That last quote exemplifies why the Pioneers have found success in the early part of the season. From Betz, to the hitting and pitching of Watson, to the big bat of University of Louisville commit and sophomore Tim Borden, Jr., different players have come up big for a team that has beaten the teams it was supposed to beat as well as top some of the highly ranked clubs including Pulaski SW, Fairmont HS in Ohio, and Austin.
“It’s so important (to have multiple contributors) because if you do rely on one or two people and they’re slumping and not able to come through at that particular time, it hurts your ability to produce runs,” Hornung explained. “Right now we’ve been getting a lot of guys on but not being able to get them in until later in the game. If we would be able to start doing that a little better we could be a more quality team.”
After facing Clarksville on Wednesday, the Pioneers face a pair of tough opponents in Henryville and Floyd Central on Thursday and Friday, respectively, where Providence’s unblemished record will be put to the test. Horning though isn’t worried about potentially losing his first game of the season, as he’s just looking for the team to continue improving game by game so that they can hit their stride into June during the postseason.
“By no means do you expect to start the season off 10-0,” Hornung said when asked if his team is farther along than he thought they would be. “I did think we were a good team and would have a good start, and we’ve had a tremendous start to the season. We’re not necessarily all the way there off but our starting pitching has been really good. We have a really deep pitching staff and really just trying to find innings for the pitchers we do have but it’s also a blessing so we can give them the adequate rest they need between starts.
“We’re only three weeks into the regular season so we haven’t reached our peak. We know we’re a team that can be defeated if we’re not playing good baseball.”