BY ROB WITZEL
The biggest difference between the Salt Fork Storm and Schlarman Academy in Wednesday evening’s baseball contest was defense.
The Toppers had seven errors and with that many mistakes, there was little hope in stopping the Storm.
Salt Fork would win the matchup 8-0.
To go along with Schlarman’s defensive difficulty, Salt Fork freshman pitcher Connor Taylor pitched an absolute gem. In six innings of work, Taylor gave up just three hits and picked up seven strikeouts.
“Not very many freshmen can come out and pitch that well in a varsity game.” said Salt Fork junior outfielder Ross Learnard. “He’s been getting it done all year for us. Connor just comes out and battles in every game.’’
“(Taylor) did another nice job today,’’ Salt Fork coach Gary Hansgen said. “He’s very steady, throws strikes and doesn’t give away bases. We defended well and only had one miscue. We put pressure on them were able to get on base and run a little bit.”
Taylor would not take all the credit for the great outing, crediting his teammates behind him.
“I have to rely on the guy’s behind me on defense.” Taylor said “They were working it today and came up with some big plays.”
Meanwhile for Schlarman, they too had a young arm getting the start with sophomore Kevin Lane.
While the scoreboard didn’t show it, he pitched quite well.
“I thought Kevin did a nice job, especially after the way we got whitewashed on Tuesday.” Schlarman coach Jason Woodworth said. “He kept us in the game; earned-run-wise I think he only allowed three or four runs. If we make a few of those routine plays we’re right there in this ballgame.”
Part of the team’s struggle was due to injuries and having to mix things up on the field.
“There are a few guys playing in positions they usually don’t play.” Woodworth said. “We have a couple guys banged up and that led to guys playing a position they’re not used to.’’
The most disappointing aspect of the game for Woodward was the lack of hitting, which has been a season-long issue.
“We’re not a very good team right now,’’ he said. “We can’t hit and we can’t play with teams as good as Salt Fork without getting better offensively.”
The opening two innings were fantastic for the pitchers. Both starters retired the six of the first seven batters they saw. Lane allowed just one run in the second.
But in the top of the third inning Salt Fork started to get their bats going and scored four runs. That led to a 5-0 lead and the Storm never looked back.
The Storm would add three insurance runs in the sixth and would ultimately win 8-0.
Salt Fork was led in hits by Garrett McFadden who had 3 singles followed by Lane Weston. In the RBI department Learnard led the team with two. For Schlarman Emmitt Black led the team in hits with two singles.
The Toppers will turn around and play tonight in a split doubleheader. Schlarman will face Oakwood at 4:30 and when that game is over they will play Westville. Meanwhile Salt Fork will host Bismarck-Henning at Jamaica on Friday.