BY CHAD DARE
Oakwood senior Jake England had just tossed a no-hitter, but his first thoughts were not about his pitching.
“That was a better defensive game for us,’’ said the right-hander as the Comets had just beaten the Salt Fork Storm 3-0. “We’ve made a lot of improvements in that area in this game.’’
Oakwood, which improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the Vermilion Valley Conference, committed 10 errors in wins over Milford and Seeger on Monday and Tuesday respectively.
During the victory on Wednesday, the Comets had just one fielding miscue while handling seven ground outs and six fly outs.
The other eight were strike outs by England, who needed just 64 pitches — 50 strikes and 14 balls — to toss the area’s first no-hitter of the season.
“It’s not a secret, Jake is our ace and he looked like it tonight,’’ Oakwood coach Bob Sermak said. “He was very sharp tonight. We had a pretty good scouting report on their team and Jake did a nice job of hitting the spots.
“I don’t think (catcher) Ryan Bott had to move his glove very much all game.’’
The only baserunners that the Storm got against England came in second, when Cole Sanford was hit with the first pitch he saw and in the third when Colton Baird reached on Oakwood’s only error of the contest.
After that, England (2-0) retired the final 15 batters in a row.
“I felt pretty good,’’ England said. “I was able to mix things up pretty well. You can’t just throw fastballs and be successful. I was able to get my breaking ball over the plate for strikes, and more important, I was able to locate my pitches well.’’
Salt Fork’s Cole Taylor was matching England with zeroes through the first five innings, but the Storm right-hander had to work out of bases-loaded jams in both the third and fifth innings.
“That’s a concern for us,’’ Sermak said. “We need to do a better job of scoring in those situations.’’
But, Taylor had to throw 48 pitches in those two frames and the extra work seemed to take its toll later in the game.
Oakwood scored its only run against Taylor in the sixth as Cody McClintock drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Girton and he scored on Salt Fork’s only error in the contest.
“This was the type of baseball game that I thought we would get,’’ Salt Fork coach Gary Hansgen said. “A tight pitchers’ duel where it would come down to which team was able to scratch out enough offense.
“Cole threw well, but those walks (6) got the best of him.’’
Hansgen pointed out that Salt Fork (3-4, 2-1) has four freshmen that played on Wednesday and the Storm are currently without their two best pitchers — Ross Learnard and Max Stutsman.
Oakwood got a pair of critical insurance runs in the seventh as Ryan Bott delivered a two-out, two-run single to left for the Comets.
“This is the third game in a row that Ryan has come up with a big hit,’’ said Sermak, noting that Bott had the game-winning hits against Milford and Seeger.
Both the Comets and the Storm continue Vermilion Valley Conference action on Friday. Oakwood travels to Milford, while Salt Fork plays at Armstrong-Potomac.