Bowling Green High School baseball sophomore Nate Kress threw his second-straight shutout game against Anthony Wayne Thursday, this time in district semifinals in a massive 3-0 upset over the state-ranked Generals.
The seven scoreless innings marked his 17th consecutive inning against an Anthony Wayne team that scored 13 runs the first time the two met this season. It also makes it 22 total consecutive scoreless innings total for Kress, who also threw a five-inning shutout last week in sectional finals against Southview as well.
“Outstanding, what 17 innings he’s thrown against us and we can’t figure out how to score a run off him?” said Anthony Wayne head coach Mark Nell. “You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. He knows how to pitch, he competes, they’ve got a good team.”
Bowling Green head coach Fred Riggs said that their catcher, Ryan Jackson, deserves just as much credit as Kress for their dominant run of games.
“Nate threw an excellent game but our catcher behind the dish calls his own game. He is an excellent kid, he’s the smartest kid on the field and he makes great pitch calls. When they execute it, it usually works out for us. That duo has been working all spring and it has finally started to click at the right time,” Riggs said.
The Bobcats will now move on to Division I district finals, scheduled for Friday, against Findlay. They currently sit at 17-11 on the season with the victory and have won five of their last seven games.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence right now. We said going in if we play our game and we don’t care who’s in the other dugout, if we play Bobcat baseball, we can compete with anybody. They showed that tonight,” Riggs said.
Just like the previous meeting between these two teams, the game started out quiet with neither team scratching a run across the plate in the first three innings.
In the top of the fourth, BGHS’s Cody Thomson led off the inning with a line shot single to left field. The next batter flew out, then Kress walked to make it runners on first and second with one out. Kress was picked off at first, giving the Generals two outs in the inning.
On an 0-2 count Lance Palmer dribbled one to the Anthony Wayne pitcher Ty Roder, who airmailed his first baseman, allowing the first run of the game to come across the plate.
In the bottom of the fourth, Garret Pike walked to begin the inning for the Generals and, strapped for run support, the Generals put a bunt down to get Pike to second with one out. The Bobcats were ready for it, as second baseman Kolin Atwood charged in and was able to get a huge double play that made it two outs with no one on.
The Bobcats, who had an extra day of preparation due to the game being rained out yesterday, used it to get ready for situations like the huge double play.
“To be honest with you, the game getting rained out was a big plus for us. We were able to work on some things that maybe we wouldn’t have in previous practices. We thought that they were going to bunt on us a lot, especially if they couldn’t hit Nate. We took that away early and it worked out for us,” Riggs said.
Neither the Bobcats nor the Generals really threatened again until late in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Evan Anderson notched a two-out double and Bowling Green elected to walk Pike, giving the Generals first and second with two outs and Chase Saneholtz coming to the plate.
Saneholtz lined one into left field and Michael Becker made the biggest play of the game, nailing Anderson at home plate with a near-perfect to end the inning and keep the Bobcats in front by one.
“It was hype. That was the biggest play of the night because it would have cost us our lead and it could have turned out bad,” Kress said of the play at the plate. “It made us all hype and we continued to be exciting and loud.”
That excitement carried over to the next inning, where the Bobcats tacked on two insurance runs on a wild pitch and a Jackson sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0 headed to the bottom of the seventh.
Kress, who had only thrown just over 60 pitches at this point, showed a little fatigue in the final inning, walking two batters after getting a groundout to start the inning. But he got two straight lineouts, one to Eli Brown at short, and the other to Atwood at second, and the Bobcats took down a now 24-5 Anthony Wayne team.
The Bobcats, who were defeated 13-0 in their first meeting this season with Anthony Wayne, gained a ton of confidence after their 1-0 victory over the Generals on May 12, and that carried over to this game.
“After the first game against them, they run ruled us, and then we came into this game after beating them at their place, just high on confidence and I could tell that they believed. They believe that they can beat anyone and that is fun to have with a team in the postseason,” Riggs said.
Kress finished with the win and a line of seven innings, giving up no runs on two hits, five strikeouts and four walks.
At the plate, the Bobcats garnered five hits as a team, with Brown, Thompson, Atwood, Becker and Mason West all getting a hit. Jackson was the only player with an RBI in the game on the sacrifice fly.
The Bobcats will now move on to play Findlay in the district final at Carter Park in Bowling Green on Sunday. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.
After getting off to a slow start this season with 13 seniors on the roster, but only one having varsity experience due to last year’s canceled season, Riggs said that expectations are sky high.
“A state title is what we expect. We don’t expect anything less. We talked about it last year. We didn’t necessarily have the season that we wanted but we shoot for that state title and we don’t consider it a successful season unless we get there,” Riggs said.