Kris Pirozzi carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and the No. 7 seed SWS Pioneers defeated No. 2 seed Bears Blue 2-1 in the first round of the LNP Tournament at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
The hard-throwing right hander started the game with a leadoff double. Joe Meck sent a weak grounder back to Cole Patrick, who started the game for Bears Blue, but Patrick bobbled the ball and eventually threw it into right field which allowed Pirozzi to score.
Austin Denlinger walked, Nick Kreider reached on an error and Kyle Welch drew a walk, all with two outs, to load the bases in the bottom of the first inning. Pirozzi got his opposing number to ground out to end the threat.
“The first inning we wanted to feel him out to see if he had his stuff today. We did a good job because I think he threw 32 pitches in the first inning, but he really settled down after that,” coach Bill Templin said.
SWS started the second inning with three consecutive singles, but Patrick was able to limit the damage to only one run. He posted a zero in the third inning to end his start.
He scattered seven hits and a walk over his three innings of work, while allowing two runs, but it was a stark difference from his last outing against SWS.
He previously pitched 7@-E innings while allowing six hits, one walk and struck out nine.
Templin said that Patrick responded as well as he could have expected following the early error.
“There are some days where you have it and everything works and those are the days when it is to throw. Tonight was a night where he didn’t have it and now you find out if you’re actually a pitcher or not. I think he dug and kept us in the game. No matter how many times you field that ball in practice it is different in the game,” Templin said.
In that same game, played at SWS on July 5, Pirozzi started for SWS, but was removed after two innings. He allowed one hit and struck out two.
Working predominantly with his fastball that broke a string on his catcher’s mitt, Pirozzi retired 14 in a row from the second inning to the sixth inning before Denlinger singled to left field to break up his no-hitter.
The first two batters were retired on the first pitch that they saw, but Denlinger ambushed Pirozzi’s first pitch fastball. Kreider walked and Denlinger advanced to third after a throwing error. Designated hitter Kyle Welch popped up into foul territory and Pirozzi made the catch in front of his dugout.
The seventh inning began with a double from Patrick to give Bears Blue some renewed energy. On his final pitch of the night, Pirozzi struck out Michael Baker for the first out of the inning.
“It seemed like our approach didn’t matter. We were aggressive and we hit balls right at people. We tried to wait him out and when he is in a plus-count, for him, that’s a tough place to be as a hitter,” Templin said.
Anthony Funk delivered an RBI single to right field to cut the deficit in half, but Joshua Howells, who came on for Pirozzi, retired Cole Livingston to end the game.
The early exit did not quell Templin’s desire to coach his group of athletes next spring.
“It’s a great group of kids. I’m looking forward to what we can do in the spring and next summer again. I like to be around them and I’ll see them in school when we start lifting in November. It’s good to be around,” Templin said.