ELLISTOWN – Ethan Hitt is a seasoned veteran.
The five-year starting senior showed just that when he poked an RBI single into left field in the bottom of the sixth to lift East Union to a 1-0 win over Pine Grove in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 2A North finals on Friday.
The No. 1-ranked Urchins (28-4) will travel for Game 2 on Saturday.
“As a senior I felt like I needed to step up and do my job, lead my team to victory, and that’s exactly what I did,” said Hitt.
East Union’s Rudy Baldwyn and Pine Grove’s Jacob Hopkins were locked into a pitcher’s duel all game.
Both seniors gave up just three hits, but Baldwyn dealt with much more traffic in the early going.
Pine Grove led off with doubles in the first and fourth innings from Carson Rowland and Gehrig Shinall, and yet couldn’t scratch across a run. The Panthers left nine runners on base, including five in scoring position.
“We just couldn’t get the big hit,” said Pine Grove head coach Matt King. “…. A lot of the times we had guys on that (Baldwyn) had put on, but he was dealing. And playing some at-bats back in my mind, we missed some 2-0 pitches, 3-1 pitches, missed fastballs and then he gets up there and makes quality pitches to get out of it.”
Baldwyn finished with 11 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of work, walking five and earning the win.
Hayden Roberts closed the game with the final two outs for the save, but was inches away from giving up the game-tying home run to Rowland in the top of the seventh that just snuck foul.
“Off the bat, I thought ‘Tie ball game,’” said King. “It started 25-foot fair, and then ended – I think the ball was foul. … I’ve never seen a ball curve that much.”
Hopkins took the loss in six innings, striking out five and walking two on 86 pitches.
Big Inning: Hitt barreled a 3-1 fastball offering to score Jude Treadaway, who had a one-out hit-by-pitch to reach base in the sixth.
Big Stat: The Urchins had just two runners in scoring position all night – once in the fourth and Treadaway in the sixth.
Coach Speak: “They had some situations there and some opportunities and he just battled his butt off, and made pitches when he had to.” – East Union's Jamie Russell, on Baldwyn