When two upperclassmen, who have started in every season of their high school career, get together for a battle on the mound, the results are usually quite enjoyable to watch.
However, even Friday’s SOC I baseball contest — a battle of wills between Green’s Tanner Kimbler and Notre Dame’s C.J. Corns — was something else to watch.
Kimbler, the Bobcats’ co-ace — and, along with Tayte Carver, one-half of the junior duo that has impressed so many — and Corns, a standout arm who, like fellow senior teammate Tyler Speas, has starred in the Titans’ lineup throughout his career, virtually locked up each of the opposing lineups throughout as the pair combined for an amazing 28 strikeouts — 14 apiece — en route to showing the entire crowd their midseason-esque form — despite the nasty weather that has proven to postpone or cut at least three-quarters of the schedule to date in 2018.
With the outcome still hanging in the balance, however, it was another familiar face who came through.
Bryce Ponn’s 2-for-3, two RBI day at the plate — which included an RBI double in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the sixth — ultimately proved to be the deciding factor as Green was able to claim a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame in a critical SOC I bout on Friday evening in Portsmouth.
For Dan McDavid, the end result was all about the attention to detail that his kids put in at the plate, on the mound, and in the field.
“We had to scratch some runs across, but C.J. threw a heck of a ballgame,” McDavid said. “Fortunately, for the fans here, they saw two great pitchers going at each other, and we were lucky enough to put three runs on the board and get it going for Tanner, who pitched a whale of a game. When you continue to hustle and put the ball in play, good things happen.”
As for Virgil Howard, the first-year skipper was completely impressed with Corns, with Howard saying that the senior “kept us in the ballgame.”
“Nobody has more heart than that kid out there on the mound,” Howard, pointing directly at Corns from the home side of the stands following the game, said. “The pitcher that Green had was outstanding (Tanner Kimbler), and he matched C.J. pitch-for-pitch. We’re young at a lot of positions, and we’re not skilled enough at the plate. We missed some stuff that we should’ve executed on. But man, what a ballgame.”
In addition to obtaining 14 strikeouts apiece, both players were plenty effective in getting groundball and flyball outs, as well. Both players, who also only gave up three hits apiece (with Kimbler walking none and Corns giving four Green batters a free pass), collected 10 groundball outs — six by Kimbler, four by Corns — with the latter adding two flyouts. Of that total, only Kimbler’s flyball to right field in the first inning saw the outfield grass.
“You can’t,” Howard said when asked if one could ask for a better pitching performance. “(Kimbler) limited our production to a bare slab, and C.J. limited their production to a bare slab.”
However, Corns and Kimbler were also aided by very sound defensive play. In fact, Green and Notre Dame each committed just one error over the course of the contest in a game that could’ve been written about in a book as a clinic on how to perform from a defensive standpoint.
“We’re playing really great defense,” McDavid said. “As long as continue to play great defense and pitch like we have been, we’ll be in every ballgame. It doesn’t matter who we’ll be playing. Our defense is playing well, our kids are hustling, and they’re having fun right now.”
“I’m so proud of these boys,” Howard said. “From (Thursday evening) to (Friday), the attitude was completely different on this whole team. The entire mindset was different. It was fun. I don’t mind getting beat, but I don’t like losing. We lost on Thursday night (against Symmes Valley). On Friday evening, we just got beat by a better ballclub.”
Both teams finally figured out both Corns and Kimbler to a degree in the fourth inning, as Kimbler, who walked to lead off the inning, stole second base, then, after advancing on a passed ball, scored on Ponn’s double toward right center field as Green took a 1-0 lead. Notre Dame, likewise obtained a hit from Speas — a single — in the bottom of the same frame, but with Speas on third after a pair of passed balls, could not advance the senior home as Kimbler punched out the remaining batters he saw in the frame.
The Bobcats then added to their lead slightly over the next couple of innings as Mason Barber walked, stole a base, and scored on an infield error as the Titans failed to turn a 1-3-5 double play during the fifth inning. In the sixth, the ever-dependable Rylee Maynard singled and stole a base to lead off the frame, and Ponn, with two out, singled Maynard on in to increase the Green lead to 3-0 heading into the game’s final frame.
“Bryce threw a heck of a game (at South Webster on Thursday),” McDavid said. “He’s playing very well. He had two solid hits today and was a catalyst for us at the plate.”
Notre Dame, however, responded with a strong seventh inning.
After Corns struck out the Green side in order in the seventh, Austin Kammer singled to give the Titans life with one out in the bottom half of the seventh. However, Kammer was thrown out on a dart by Barber, and a single by Jake McGuire was extinguished by a 6-3 groundout to end the affair.
Still, considering how much Notre Dame had to replace going into the 2018 season, losing by a 3-0 count to last season’s SOC I Champions — who went undefeated at that in conference play — is a promising sign for Howard.
“I feel even better, especially with the young staff that we have,” Howard said upon being informed that Green had won the SOC I title last season. “We’ve only got one way to go, and that’s to get better and become more baseball-savvy.”
Green, however, should as well. After all, the Bobcats top six batters consist of a senior (Maynard), three juniors, and two freshmen — for a unit that is absolutely loaded from a talent and a potential standpoint.
“And they’re still growing,” McDavid said. “They’ve had a lot of success with us, and everybody’s buying into that and wanting to be a part of it.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT