Jag baseball sweeps Andover in double header
ANDOVER, Kansas–To borrow a professional wrestling term, Andover Central is proving to have one of the best tag teams in the AVCTL.
Just four days after combining to shut down Derby on six hits last Friday in a 5-0 shutout, the combination of sophomore Jacob Horn and junior Lou Blackman struck again, limiting archrival Andover to just five hits in a 6-4 victory Tuesday in the opening game of a doubleheader at Andover Central.
In the nightcap, senior Alex Ronk shut down Andover on five hits, going the distance in a 4-2 triumph that gave the Jaguars (5-1) the sweep. He struck out eight and didn’t walk anyone.
Blackman’s heroics weren’t limited to the mound. His two-run double in the fourth inning snapped a 4-4 tie and paved the way to the victory.
This time, Horn’s outing was so strong that Blackman was only needed after Horn surrendered a leadoff single to Trojans shortstop Sterling Pierce leading off the top of the seventh.
Blackman entered and got Eli Fahnestock on a fly ball, erased Pierce on Ashton Ngo’s fielder’s choice and retired Brandon Klusener on fly ball to end the game.
Horn credited his defense for helping him through the few rough patches he had.
“I felt like some of my stuff was working about half the time, but I have a real good defense behind me, so I trusted just listening to Buff (catcher Matt Buffington) and having them put it in play,” Horn said.
Horn is quickly generating a lot of buzz for his pitching despite his relative youth, and Tuesday he backed it up. He faced the minimum in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings. He got into trouble with control in the fourth inning, walking Klusener and freshman Peyton White, both of whom came around to score. An error allowed junior Brody Kasel to tie the score, 4-4.
But in the bottom of the fourth, senior Easton Elliot led off with a walk from Andover starter Brett Albright. Elliot came around to score the tie-breaking run on Blackman’s double, with Bell following right behind him.
From there, the Jaguars duo held the Trojans in check, closing out the opener.
Jaguars coach Grant Bacon gave credit to Horn, who was facing his school’s rival for the first time.
“Jacob, Game One, did a great job,” Bacon said. “I think there were some nerves, but he battled through it. “
In the second game, Ronk was in total command. Even though Andover (4-6) touched him for two runs in the third, the Trojans couldn’t break through against the Andover Central senior.
“He had command of all his pitches,” Bacon said of Ronk. “His fastball was moving, tailing in on the righties. He threw great.”
As for Blackman, he has earned his coach’s trust in pressure situations late in the game, Bacon said.
“Lou, he just finds a way,” Bacon said. “He didn’t have his best fastball (Tuesday), but he was getting his offspeed for strikes.”
Of course, his bat more than made up for any slight in his pitching, Bacon said.
“That’s what you want out of your cleanup hitter,” he said. “All your guys, you want them to step up, and Lou has found a way to do it.”
Blackman said he likes pairing up in games with Horn.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said. “I think he’s the best sophomore pitcher in the whole state, and it shows because he just deals every time he goes out there. His confidence, and it’s fun to play with him.”
Blackman has the opportunity to save a game two ways – driving in the go-ahead runs, then shutting down the opposition. He agreed with Ronk and Horn about Buffington, especially as a defensive catcher.
“(He’s an) absolute wall back there,” Blackman said. “He knows every pitch, every spot.”
Bacon was quick to mention that Ronk didn’t get hit very hard in the nightcap, as some of the Andover hits were in the infield. He also didn’t walk anyone.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars scored two runs in the first and fourth innings, taking advantage of Andover miscues. Of the four Andover Central runs, two scored on passed balls and one on a wild pitch. Senior Buffington – whom Horn, Blackman and Ronk singled out for his catching duties afterward – was the only Jaguar to record an RBI in the nightcap, driving in Bell with a first-inning single.
Ronk said he felt good going in.
“My arm felt pretty good, and throwing to Buffington, I wholeheartedly believe he’s the best catcher in the state, so he gives me all the confidence I need,” Ronk said. “I had great defense behind me, so I felt pretty confident.”
Even though his team came up short, Andover coach Chris Weidert said he admired the Jaguars pitchers. Andover’s top pitcher, junior Connor Leu, is sidelined because of injury.
“We saw two good (starting) pitchers,” Weidert said. “We had to really battle at the plate, and some guys were overmatched. Some guys stepped up to the plate and swung the bat well.
“That first game was tough (because) you had that wind blowing in, plus a pretty solid pitcher. We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game. Those are the kinds of game where your defense has got to take over and hold the other team down, and that’s where we let ourselves down.”
Weidert said he was pleased with his team’s effort.
“I thought we pitched it pretty well,” he said. “We didn’t have one of those innings where they blow up and give up a big number. For the most part, we pitched pretty well. We’re starting to figure out who our rotation guys are.
“We’re getting better every day. Now we’ve got to put it all together as a team, and turn those close games into ‘W’s.’”
Conditions again were cool, but gone was the biting chill that enveloped the field last Friday against Derby. And, both teams had been scheduled to face the Goddard schools Friday, but Andover has already rescheduled its game against Goddard to May 11 because of a likelihood of rain. At the moment, Andover Central is still scheduled to play host to Eisenhower.
Andover Central 6, Andover 4
Andover 100 300 0 – 4
Andover Central 130 200 0 – 6
W – Horn. L – Albright. Sv – Blackman. HR – None.
Andover Central 4, Andover 2
Andover 002 000 0 – 2
Andover Central 200 200 0 – 4
W – Ronk. L – Conard. HR – None.