By Rob Kiser
Austin Rutledge handled things on the mound.
And some aggressive baserunning did the rest as the Piqua American Legion Post 184 baseball team defeated Van Wert 5-1 Tuesday night at Hardman Field.
Rutledge pitched a six-hitter, striking out three and not walking a batter.
“Austin (Rutledge) was phenomenal tonight,” Piqua Post 184 coach Justin Jennings said. “He did a good job mixing his pitches and keeping them off-balance. He kept his pitch count low and he seemed to throw harder as the game went on.”
And Post 184 made some nice plays on defense.
Cory Cotrell had two running catches in centerfield and doubled a runner off first on the second one.
And on a wild pitch that scored Van Wert’s only run in the sixth inning, Piqua catcher Howie Ludwig threw a strike to third baseman Will Eversole to cut down a runner trying to go from first to third on the play.
“We played pretty good defense,” Jennings said. “Cory (Cotrell) did a good job running down some balls out there.”
Still, the game was scoreless going to the bottom of the fifth.
Chase Humphrey, who had two of Piqua’s four hits, walked and Michael Ashcraft was hit by a pitch. The runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch.
Kaden Walker hit a grounder to third and it looked like Humphrey was caught between third and home. But, he was able to get back and Van Wert threw to second to try and get Ashcraft. But, no one was on second base and the throw went into the outfield with Humphrey scoring.
“We have talked about the fact we have really good speed,” Jennings said. “So, we talked about being aggressive and getting in some rundowns or putting down a suicide squeeze to make teams make plays. We are willing to take a chance on that.”
Ashcraft was out at home on Eversole’s fielder’s choice and Cotrell walked to load the bases, bringing up Rylee Deitsch.
Deitsch had a double in the first inning.
“I thought that was a big hit,” Jennings said. “Their pitcher comes out throwing well and Rylee (Deitsch) hits a shot into the gap.”
With two strikes, Deitsch hit a hard shot off the third baseman’s glove for a two-run single to make it 3-0.
“Rylee (Deitsch) has really been swinging the bat well,” Jennings said. “A lot of them have been with two strikes. Rylee is one of the few guys that still believes in choking up with two strikes and putting the ball in play.”
After Logan Harris’ fly out, Cotrell scored when Ludwig reached on a strikeout to make it 4-0.
Van Wert scored its runs in the top of the sixth, before Post 184 got the run back in the home sixth to make the final 5-1.
Humphrey singled and Colton Schafer pinch ran.
He appeared to be picked off between first and second, but after a wild throw, he ended up on third base and scored on Ashcraft’s sacrifice fly.
“That was supposed to be a straight steal,” Jennings said. “But, it ended up with him on third base instead of a pickoff. We have had some of those things go against us this year, but it went our way tonight.
“There are games where we will string hits together. But tonight, we got a few hits and we were able to take advantage of their mistakes with our baserunning.”
And Rutledge made sure that was enough — as Piqua improved to 9-7 heading into Wednesday night’s 7 p.m. game with Sidney at Custenborder Field.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.