MINFORD – Minford is dangerous. That might seem obvious considering the Falcons (6-0, 3-0 SOC II) returned most of last season’s regional championship squad, but it was even more obvious following their 3-0 win over SOC II rival Valley (2-5, 0-3 SOC II) Monday night on their home field.
“Any win’s a big win,” said Minford head coach Anthony Knittel following the Falcons shutout win over Valley. “Tonight, our kids came out ready to play, ready for the challenge. Valley came out and competed like we knew they would. That’s a great team over there, and with Tanner (Cunningham) on the mound. That’s a great competitor and a great guy. We came out and put the ball in play, and it’s a great win for us.”
The thing that makes Minford so dangerous is not one aspect of their game, but all of them. Their three runs scored Monday night in the win were the fewest they’ve scored so far in this young season, the second fewest being seven.
On an “off night” in which they produced three more than their opponents, Minford’s pitching and defense also continued on a tear of their own. It’s been nine calendar days since the Falcons have allowed a single run. In those nine calendar days and subsequent four games, Minford is outscoring their opponents 29-0.
At the forefront of that pitching dominance is senior ace Ethan Lauder. In the Falcons win over Valley Monday, Lauder went the distance, pitching 7.0 IP while striking out just one batter and giving up eight hits.
“That’s something that we preach,” said Knittel. “Strikeouts don’t mean anything. Throwing strikes, commanding the zone, keeping the ball in play and letting our defense do the work. We had some solid plays from Nathan McCormick, a solid play from Mason Risner. Luke Lindamood stepped up behind the plate and struck out a few guys when we needed it. That’s what these kids do: they see this ball, they chase it, and they make great things happen.”
It took until the bottom of the fifth to get the game’s first run when senior Bailey Rowe crossed home plate after an E5 to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead. Following Rowe’s run and with Brayden Davis and Darius Jordan in scoring position, Elijah Vogelsong hit a clutch single to center field to drive in both runners to move Minford ahead by what would be the final score, 3-0.
“Who’s going to step up when you need them the most, Elijah did that tonight for us. I called time and told him to trust in himself, and he stepped up and got that big single up the middle for those two RBI. Anyway anyhow, that’s what we were able to do tonight.”
A large reason the Falcons were limited to just three runs was, as Knittel said, the extremely solid outing from Valley senior Tanner Cunningham. In 6 IP, Cunningham allowed just five hits and one earned run while striking out four Falcons.
Minford will take a day off Tuesday before making the short drive to Lucasville to face the Indians once again, a game that Knittel is hoping to see the bats come more alive than they seemed to to start the series.
“Defensively we’re pretty solid. Things can always be better. I’d like to see us come out and hit the ball a little bit better. Tonight I think we had only five hits. I’d like to see us get a few more hits, keep the ball in play.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT