FULTON — It was Bubby Day on Thursday.
Pioneer freshman Brayden Erickson stole the show during the Caston vs. Pioneer rivalry baseball game.
The young right-hander fired a one-hit shutout, striking out 13 to lead the Panthers to a 9-0 win over the Comets in the opening game of a two-game series. The two teams meet again at 5 p.m. today at Pioneer.
“I’m just really excited,” said Erickson. “I just go out with the mentality that I’m going to no-hit the team.
“The fastball on the corner and the curveball was really working for me. I threw the changeup every once in awhile but mostly the curveball.”
Erickson also plays basketball at Pioneer, but his main sport is baseball. He plays in the summer with the Indiana Mustangs in Westfield.
“He’s a good pitcher, a travel ball pitcher. He pitched a lot for his travel team as well,” Pioneer coach Josh Hardy said. “At practice we saw a lot of good things from him. He’s a freshman, so in JV we saw a lot of good things when he was up there pitching. We decided to give him a chance it would have been three weeks ago, he pitched well against West Central. He pitched well against LaVille on Saturday when we got the win. We had confidence in him for this first game against Caston to get that win.”
The Panthers (6-4, 2-1 HNAC) also bashed the baseball at the plate as they pounded out 15 hits.
Wyatt Zeider went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. Hunter Klepinger went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Daniel Reyes had a home run and a single. Caleb Sweet had two hits, an RBI and three runs scored. Mason Schnurpel had two hits and an RBI. Noah Pearson had an RBI double. Owen Mersch had an RBI single. Gavin Clem added a hit.
“As soon as I started this, the main thing that I told the guys was offense. Offense, offense, offense,” Hardy said. “So we’ve been working a lot with different tee drills, different things like that. Honestly a lot of stuff is from coach Frye and coach Turner from Logan, so they taught me a lot of different things from when I was playing there. So that’s what I brought to the program. It’s helped our hitting quite a bit. And we also have a lot of good kids that hit well anyway before I came here.”
It was a close game going into the final inning. It was just a 3-0 game going into the seventh when the Panthers struck for six more runs, which included four straight hits to start the frame, including home runs by Reyes and Zeider. Both blasts were to center field.
Caston coach Blake Mollenkopf said it should have been closer than 3-0 going into the last inning.
“Defensively we looked a little shaky tonight for some reason. We’ve really played pretty good defense over the past couple weeks. Even the outs we made we weren’t confident in our demeanor,” Mollenkopf said. “I thought Joey [Spin] threw well on the mound. He had a tough start to it. We started with an error and a bloop single and it just led to a 2-0 deficit. He really settled in until the seventh. He just left some fastballs in the middle of the plate rather than continue to hit the corners and they put good swings on him. Credit those two kids, they really put good swings on him. In every aspect we were a little bit behind tonight. I can’t tell you why but we were. It happened, good or bad. Tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll get back after with them tomorrow.”
Sophomore Jackson Rentschler had the lone hit of the game for the Comets (4-7, 2-3) on a line drive to center to lead off the fifth. He was bunted to second by Cam Kline but Erickson dialed up back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the inning.
The Comets loaded the bases in the sixth when it was still a 3-0 game. Talon Zeider drew a walk, Kade Zeider reached on an error and Carter See drew a two-out walk. But Erickson struck out Rentschler to end the threat.
Mollenkopf is looking for his team to swing the bats better.
“I thought it started offensively for us. We just didn’t have a great approach at the plate,” he said. “We let a lot of fastballs eat us up. We just have to have a better approach, we have to put the ball in play more.”