In a battle of crafty and lanky lefties at Bowman Park, Start defended its City League title with a 2-0 shutout of Bowsher.
Start senior Austin Pier locked up in a pitchers' duel with Bowsher senior Will Hutt in the City League championship game on Thursday night. Both were efficient, matching each other pitch for pitch.
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Pier earned the victory when his Spartans broke through with two runs in the fifth inning. Pier struck out nine, and his counterpart, Hutt, fanned seven.
“It feels amazing,” said Pier, who didn't walk a batter in his final high school game. “I tried to match him. It was tough. But that is how the game went. I battled through it. My boys have battled all year long.”
Start (18-10) went 9-1 in the City during the regular season. Bowsher (14-8) was 8-2 during the regular season. It was the season finale for both teams.
“The motto of the program is to put a banner on the wall,” Start coach Jason Biniker said. “Hutt threw an outstanding game, and Austin was the best I've seen him throw the ball. He had the most zip on his fastball. He threw strikes.”
After four scoreless innings, Start senior second baseman Shaun Kelley led off with a standup double to the fence in left. Senior John Harris then attempted a sac bunt but Bowsher first baseman Josh Carver dropped the throw and Kelley scored to make it 1-0.
“Austin was pitching great, and I tried to hit the ball as hard as I could,” Kelley said. “The is the best feeling in the world.”
Following an infield single on a sac bunt attempt by Zack Newland, Harris scored on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Cannon for a 2-0 Spartans lead.
Hutt allowed only three hits. Pier sustained his energy and had several quick innings.
The teams split in a regular-season doubleheader on Monday. Bowsher won 4-2 and Start took a 3-2 victory. Pier came into the game with a 1.58 earned run average, while Hutt had a 2.47 ERA.
“Those are two great left-handed pitchers,” Bowsher coach Joe Guerrero said. “I thought Will pitched a tremendous game and Austin did too. It came down to just one inning where we didn't make plays we should have.”
Earlier in the day, Bowsher defeated Waite 5-2 in the semifinals. The game had been delayed on Wednesday night due to lightening. The Rebels played two innings on Thursday and rallied from a 2-1 deficit.
“It was a great effort by our guys today,” Guerrero said.
Start defeated Rogers 11-0 in the other semifinal.
Pier allowed a hit in the first inning but picked off Mac Jewell for the third out.
Hutt also gave up a single and a walk in the first but got a strikeout and two ground outs to work out of it.
Hutt yielded a lead off walk in the second but then fanned the next three batters. Pier sent the Rebels down in order in the second and third.
Pier ran into trouble in the fourth when he gave up a double to Braiden Greisiger and an infield single to Mitchell Vanderhorst. But he coaxed a fly out to get out of the jam.
Hutt struck out seven over the first four innings.
In the fifth, Willie Richberg led off with a single for Bowsher. But he was picked off of first by Start catcher Cannon. Pier also fanned two more batters in the inning before his offense got on track.
“It's always nice to end the season with a win,” Biniker said. “We have nine seniors and we were picked to win the league and we were able to get it done.”