|Updated 8:30 p.m., Smoyer, Otsego shut out Eastwood (5-9-13)|
|Written by Kevin Gordon Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Thursday, 09 May 2013 17:50|
The senior right-hander pitched a three-hitter Thursday to lead the Knights to a 5-0 win over Eastwood.
Smoyer struck out 10 and walked four as Otsego stayed undefeated in the NBC. PHOTO GALLERY
The Knights, 12-5 overall, are 9-0 in the conference and have a two-game lead with five games remaining.
Eastwood had a chance to tie Otsego for the NBC lead with a win Thursday.
The Eagles are 14-5, 7-2 after losing to Otsego for the second time in four days. Every other team in the NBC has at least three losses.
“This was a big game,” said Smoyer, whose team scored twice in the bottom of the seventh inning Monday a 4-3 win over the Eagles. “Our goal is to win the league and this is another step towards that goal.”
“We need help now to win the league and I don’t know if anyone can beat them,” Eastwood coach Kevin Leady said. “They have more pitching and a deeper lineup than anyone. They’re tough to beat.”
Drake Johnson was 3-for-3 with three runs batted in for Otsego, which had eight hits. He also scored twice.
Johnson homered to open the scoring in the second inning, and Otsego put the game away with two-run rallies in the third and sixth.
He added an RBI single in the third and a run-scoring double in the sixth.
The Knights, who played errorless defense, are seeking their first league championship since 1997 when they won the Suburban Lakes League.
Eastwood’s last league title came in 1989, also in the SLL.
“We’re aware of where we stand, but we’re also aware we have a target on our back and we have to be ready to play every day,” Otsego coach Chase Welker said.
The Knights returned 10 lettermen — six seniors and four juniors — from last season when they were 14-13 overall and third in the NBC.
“We’re playing well,” Welker said. “We started slowly against some real good teams, but we’ve found our way and this is a great time to be playing our best.”
In addition to the win over Eastwood Monday, the Knights were coming off a 3-2 win Wednesday at Lake. The Flyers won the NBC last season and the final SLL title in 2011.
“We came out a little flat, but with Ryan on the mound, we’re going to be in any game he pitches,” Welker said. “I don’t think he had his best stuff, but you’re not going to have your best stuff every time out. It was a gutty performance by him.”
Although Smoyer walked four, none of Eastwood’s singles were hit hard. He relied primarily on his fastball.
“Today was OK,” Smoyer said. “I couldn’t locate my curve for strikes and I kind of got away from it early in the game. I relied on my fastball to get ahead early in the game. But late in the game, I could throw (the curve) for a strike and that helped me because they were sitting on my fastball.”
Smoyer is 5-0 with a 0.72 earned-run average. In 29 innings, he’s allowed five runs on 14 hits with 43 strikeouts.
“His demeanor is so good,” Leady said. “He’s always in control. When he steps on the mound, there’s a purpose to what he’s doing. He can throw any pitch in any count for a strike. He’s attacking with all three pitches and he’s not afraid of anybody, He’s a tough kid. He did an excellent job.”
Smoyer will pitch collegiately at Notre Dame and expectations of a no-hitter or a perfect game follow him to the mound.
“You focus on winning and put everything else out of your mind,” Smoyer said.
Johnson’s bat remained hot. He’s hitting .368 with three homers and 19 RBI after breaking his leg during football.
His two-run double in the seventh Monday gave Otsego its win over Eastwood.
Against Eastwood Thursday, the left fielder hustled back to the fence to rob Skylar Dierker of extra bases with one out in the seventh.
“With an injury like that, he’s not 100 percent with his legs, but he’s found a way to get it done offensively and defensively,” Welker said. “He’s been clutch all year.”
|Last Updated on Friday, 10 May 2013 08:48|
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