Effingham sophomore Braydon Bone entered Wednesday's game without a wealth of varsity pitching experience, but against visiting Windsor/Stew-Stras, he played like a wily veteran.
Bone did not allow a single hit against the Blue Devils, finishing the day with five walks and two earned runs in 5.2 innings of action. Windsor/Stew-Stras did manage to muster a hit in the sixth inning of Preston Walker, but the Hearts' lineup did more than enough at the plate to come away with a 7-2 victory."It's nice to have a sophomore step up and do the job," Effingham coach Chris Fleener said about Bone. "Braydon did his job on the mound, you're always looking for pitchers."Bone faced just 13 batters in the first four innings, and with the Blue Devil offense effectively neutralized, the Hearts took advantage of some kind bounces to build an early lead. After Bone was hit by a pitch in the first Effingham at bat, Drew Levitt reached first on a Blue Devil error. One batter later, Carter Hayes connected on an RBI single to left field, where another Windsor/Stew-Stras error allowed Hayes to reach second. Now with runners on second and third, Alex Carie hit a sacrifice fly to left that brought Levitt home and gave the Hearts a 2-0 lead through one inning."We were able to take advantage of a couple of balls that got kicked around," Fleener said. "A couple of those errors though were still on pretty hard-hit balls."Blue Devils coach Rodney Monbrum wasn't as forgiving. He thought his team had a great chance to turn a double play on the ground ball from Levitt that would have ended the frame in a scoreless tie."The inning could have been over if we can make that play," he said. "It's a routine double play, we've just got to get the job done."The score would stay at 2-0 until the fifth, when Effingham chalked up five runs on four hits and broke the game open. With the bases loaded, Hayes drove in the first two runs of the inning off a single and Nathan Vail ripped a double to left field in the ensuing at bat. Vail's extra-base hit brought Levitt and Hayes home, and the Effingham offense was firing on all cylinders ahead 6-0. The final run of the inning came off a single to center from Khye Heuerman that closed the scoring at 7-0 and gave the Hearts plenty of breathing room."I think all the boys stepped up and stayed level-headed," Fleener said. "They had some good approaches at the plate. Nathan came in and got a big hit there, and against a team like that you want to get as many runs as you can."Walker entered in relief of Bone in the bottom of the sixth after Bone walked three of his first four batters. Facing loaded bags and one out, Walker gave up a single to Gunner Theis that scored Ben Helton and got the Blue Devils on the board.Hayden Cole reached first on a fielder's choice in the next at-bat, allowing another runner to score. Having surrendered some momentum back to the Blue Devils, Walker got Justin Fulk to sky one to right field to end the danger at 7-2.There was no cause for concern in the seventh. Walker struck out three consecutive batters to pick up the save and preserve the five-run win."He came in in a tough situation," Fleener said. "I thought he did a good job. You've got to be a solid defensively if you want to beat that team."Bone picked up the win with his sterling performance, while Windsor/Stew-Stras' Aaron White got the loss. White pitched 5.2 innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits. Hayes finished with three RBIs for the Hearts, Vail drove in two, and both Carie and Heuerman had one RBI apiece. Effingham improved to 3-5 on the year with the win, and the Hearts are back in action today at Dieterich.The loss was a tough one to swallow for Monbrum and the Blue Devils (10-4), who are still looking for signature wins."We struggled," Monbrum said. "We've got to find a way to beat good teams. We need some good wins."Windsor/Stew-Stras will look to get back on track today when they travel to BCCH.