Any time a team scores a few runs in the top of the first inning, that team feels like momentum is on its side.
When that team’s pitcher is threatened in the bottom of the first and escapes unscathed, the momentum feels like twice as strong.
That’s what Sandwich’s baseball team experienced in Monday’s 7-3 Interstate Eight Conference win over rival Plano.
The Indians scored three runs in the top of the first, only to see ace Bailey Watros struggle to start the bottom of the inning. But after walking two and loading the bases, he retired three straight, including two strikeouts, and Sandwich (8-8-1, 5-3-1) was on its way to a relatively comfortable win.
“The momentum we gave them in the first inning, we doubled it for them,” Plano coach John Parpet said. “Then you’re playing catch-up the whole game. That’s been the theme of our season.”
Sandwich jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the strength of three singles and two Plano errors. It looked like the Reapers (5-15, 1-8) were going to get back into the game when they loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first.
But Watros battled through his 31-pitch inning, keeping the score 3-0 and giving the Indians a chance to add on in future innings.
“Bailey is a great ballplayer,” Sandwich coach Jason Van Pelt said. “Even after walking those first few guys, he’s so mentally tough out there it didn’t even get to him. To retire the next three hitters was huge for us to keep the momentum that we had in the top of the first.”
Watros (3-1) didn’t walk a batter thereafter, finishing with eight strikeouts and two walks and allowing two hits and no runs. By the time he exited, the Indians were up 7-0. He also went 4-for-5 with three runs scored.
“I just wanted to come out and throw strikes,” Watros said. “My coaches told me on my later pitches to keep them in the zone and keep my shoulder closed. I worked on it while I was warming up and it wound up working. I threw a lot more strikes the next few innings.”
Freshman pitcher Carlos Martinez (1-1) deserved a better fate for Plano. He struck out four and walked one in six innings. But the defense made three errors behind him and there were a handful of other plays that weren’t made behind him that should have been made, leading to Sandwich’s 11-hit output.
“When you have pitch-to-contact pitchers, you’ve got to make the routine plays,” Parpet said. “We’ll get back at it tomorrow.”
The two rivals play Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Sandwich.