South Warren is beginning to perform the way it wants.
After struggling on Monday and being shutout in their series opener against Warren East, the Spartans quickly regrouped and dominated in a 16-4 win on Tuesday.
That momentum carried over into Thursday night’s rubber match, as South (5-5 overall, 2-1 District 14) played one of its best games of the season and rolled to a 13-3 series-clinching victory over the Raiders in its home opener at South Warren Ballpark.
“I would say they’re playing up to our expectations as far as swinging the bat,” South Warren coach Chris Gage said. “We go back to Monday and Ryan Hawks is on the mound — and he’s a really, really good pitcher — so to bounce back and not get in a rut because of how well he pitched and come back against a really good team and score double-digit runs is good.”
The Spartans racked up 11 hits on the evening and had seven different players finish with hits. Clay Nohel led the way for the home club with a 3-for-3, RBI showing while tossing three strikeouts and allowing just one hit and one run in 3.2 innings on the mound.
Additionally, Drew went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI and Trent Rice finished with two hits of his own.
“We live by coming back and taking it game-by-game, pitch-by-pitch” Nohel said. “We like to live by that mentality. We’re a pretty good hitting team and if we just keep hitting the ball like we are, I like our chances.”
In its loss, Warren East (5-5, 1-2) was led by Colson Elkins’ 2-for-3, two RBI outing.
South Warren returns to action Friday in a 7 p.m. game at Allen County-Scottsville. The Raiders will also be on the field this weekend, playing at 11 a.m. Saturday at Franklin-Simpson.
“We’re not dominant on the mound, but we do have pitchers that can execute the game plan,” Gage said. “If they do that, we should be able to stay in games — and hopefully let our hitting carry us a little bit.”
Nohel is one of the guys on the pitching staff that excels at executing the game plan.
As he replaced Spartans’ starter AJ Isable on the mound early into the game, Nohel played a big role in helping South Warren secure a win on Thursday.
“I just tried to go in there and throw strikes and let my teammates back me up,” Nohel said. “We have some amazing fielders on our team. My goal as a pitcher is to go in and throw strikes — and that’s what we try and live by.”
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From the early stages of the affair, it looked as if Warren East was going to pretty tough to deal with, kind of like it was on Monday.
The Raiders jumped out to a quick start as Nolan Ford led off with a double. After Ryan Hawks reached on a walk, Ford stole home while South Warren attempted to throw out Hawks at second, and they had an early 1-0 lead.
South Warren immediately answered, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first inning. Following Nohel’s leadoff double, Sam Gage reached on an error that allowed Nohel to score. On the ensuing play, Zack Beckner doubled to send Gage home and gave the Spartans a 2-1 lead after one.
The Raiders responded in the top of the second on Elkins’ solo home run. The senior catcher swung at a fastball down the middle and sent the pitch over the left field wall to even the scoreboard at 2-all.
The Spartans’ bats caught fire in the bottom half of the frame.
Rice singled and advanced to second on an error, and Gregory followed up with a double to send Rice home and put South back in front at 3-2. Just after Rice’s score, Gregory opened up his bag of tricks and stole back-to-back bases before a single by Hunter Evans drove home another run to make it 5-2.
Tyler Martin’s two-out single tacked on another run to have South Warren leading 6-2 after two complete innings.
One inning after hitting a home run, Elkins singled to score Hawks — who led off with a double — and helped East cut its deficit to three.
But South Warren kept playing at a dominant level.
Once up by just a trio of runs, the Spartans unloaded for five runs in the third to build an 11-3 lead. Rice scored on a fielder’s choice, and Nohel followed with a big triple that made it 9-3. Following Nohel’s hit, a pair of Warren East coaches — including head coach Wes Sanford — were tossed and all of the momentum shifted to South Warren’s side.
Taking an 11-3 advantage into the fourth inning, the Spartans maintained a comfortable lead for the remainder of the contest and earned a series victory in their home opener.
“It’s nice because our field’s been wet and we haven’t been able to play here all year. It was really good to be home,” said Gage.