By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — While Lehman Catholic baseball coach Dave King takes nothing for granted — you could forgive him if marked down a ‘W’ ever time Parker Riley took the mound.
And Saturday was no exception at Covington High School.
After going 13-0 a year ago, Riley picked up his third straight win this spring with a three-hit shutout as Lehman blanked Covington 5-0 in non-conference action.
“I don’t really think about it like that,” Riley said about his win streak. “My teammates do a great job behind me and give me a lot of confidence. I just try and make good pitches.”
It ran the Lehman record to 6-1, while Covington dropped to 1-6.
“He is special,” King said about Riley. “He is an outstanding pitcher and has been for several years now and Owen Smith does a great job calling the game behind the plate.”
The most impressive thing is, Riley won’t run up big strikeout totals — he had five Saturday without a walk.
He just knows how to get outs.
“The great thing about Parker (Riley) is he just knows how to throw strikes,” King said. “He has four pitches and he throws them all for strikes.”
And on Saturday, he made the biggest play of the game defensively as well.
Lehman was leading 3-0 in the fourth inning when Ty Freeman and Mason Dilley started a Covington rally with singles and Kenny Atkinson sacrificed them to second and third.
Triston Francis put down a bunt that Riley came off the mound to field.
“I heard them yelling one (go to first),” Riley said. “But, I knew I was going to go four (home). After I threw it home, I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t have done that. But, we got the out.”
Smith was able to get the tag on Freeman in a close play.
“That was a big time high school play (by Parker Riley) on the squeeze,” King said. “And Owen (Smith) did a nice job on the tag.”
Covington coach Mitch Hirsch also agreed it was a turning point.
“If we get that bunt down (and score) it is 3-1 and who knows,” Hirsch said.
Riley then ended the threat by getting a pop out to shortstop Dylan Arnold.
“That was big, because they had first and second and no outs,” Riley said. “I try not to get too nervous out there and just relax and make my pitches and trust my defense.”
The other key to the game was timely hitting by Lehman.
Covington starter Nathan Blei almost pitched out of a first and second with one out in the first.
But Brandon Barhorst (walk) and Riley (single), both scored on Bryce Kennedy’s two-out single to make it 2-0.
“That was a big hit by Bryce (Kennedy),” King said.
Lehman made it 3-0 in the third on another clutch hit.
Arnold’s two-out double scored Tyler Lachey, who had reached on an error.
Lachey had a RBI single in the fifth and Jared Rourke had a RBI single in the sixth of Atkinson to complete the game’s scoring.
“They got some timely hits and we didn’t,” Hirsch said. “There is no doubt he (Parker Riley) does a nice job out there on the mound.”
Blei pitched the first five innings for Covington, with Atkinson pitching the final two.
They combined for four walks and three strikeouts, scattering eight hits.
“Nathan (Blei) didn’t have his best stuff, but he didn’t pitch bad,” Hirsch said. “But, our defense has got to react faster. We have some work to do on defense.”
Riley, with the importance of pitch counts this spring, managed the complete game on 75 pitches — nearly staying under the 70-pitch count.
“He almost stayed under that pitch count where we could have had him on Monday (against Temple Christian) for an inning or two if we needed him,” King said. “I thought about taking him out, but he wanted to finish. I have no problem with that.”
After all, that is what Riley does.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.