TONTOGANY — Perhaps the most impressive aspect of a pitchers’ duel Monday was the pick-off moves featured by two future college hurlers.
Both Otsego senior Ryan Smoyer and Lake junior Jayce Vancena featured great control with the ability to throw all of their impressive pitches in any count.
Smoyer, who will play at Notre Dame, threw 92 pitches and struck out nine to lead the Knights to a 2-1 home win.
Vancena, who has committed to Michigan, threw 87 pitches and struck out six in a game completed in a brisk one hour and 37 minutes.
Each pitcher picked off two runners to end early threats.
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“That is just part of being a good athlete,” Otsego coach Chase Welker said. “They both have quick feet and have good arms. When they put the ball right on the bag, it's tough to beat that.”
Smoyer kept the Flyers off balance with a curve ball he consistently threw for strikes. He also turned to an overpowering fastball and effective changeup.
“It was a good, competitive game,” Smoyer said. “Growing up, Jayce and I have played each other a lot. Knowing he’s going to Michigan and I’m going to Notre Dame, there will be a rivalry in the future. That was a big win.”
Otsego (4-3) took the early lead in the Northern Buckeye Conference as the Knights improved to 2-0. Lake (6-4), the preseason favorite to win a third straight title, dropped to 1-1.
“Both pitchers showed very good composure and threw extremely well,” Lake coach Greg Wilker said. “They had a couple key hits and we had a couple of misplays. But with their horse on the mound, they certainly deserved to win.”
Smoyer struck out the first five batters he faced and sent the side down in order in each of the first three innings. It took Smoyer just four pitches to end the third.
Smoyer allowed Lake’s first hit, a single by Cody Witt, in the fourth. But he instantly erased the runner with a good pick off move. Smoyer then walked Vancena, but he picked off the opposing pitcher.
“I just watch other pitchers,” Smoyer said. “Jayce had a great pick-off move today. It is something you work on by yourself. It’s something you develop over the years. To give up a hit and to take them right back off it helps with the pitch count.”
In the first inning, Otsego’s Nate Hackworth reached on a walk, and Smoyer singled. But Vancena picked both runners off of first base. Vancena had two nice snap throws to get out of trouble.
“We work on that quite a bit,” Wilker said. “They’re just outstanding athletes. [Smoyer] was throwing over there and we weren't even moving a couple of times.”
The Knights broke up the scoreless duel in the fourth. Hackworth scored on Drake Johnson’s double to the right-field fence to make it 1-0.
Smoyer’s defense came up with a double play in the sixth.
“That was big,” Smoyer said. “Everyone contributed. It wasn’t just one guy leading us through.”
His offense then added a key insurance run when Hunter Donald scored from third after Collin Austin struck out. Catcher Nick Walsh dropped the third strike but then he threw out Austin at first. Donald hustled home on the play to make it 2-0.
The run proved to be the difference when Lake ended Smoyer’s shutout bid in the seventh inning. With his team down to its last out, Walsh doubled in Witt to make it 2-1.
But Smoyer ended the game by striking out Brad Ackerman.
“He has a bulldog mentality,” Welker said of Smoyer.
Lake beat Otsego three times last season and ended the Knights’ season with a 5-4 win in the district final.
“It was a well-pitched game,” Welker said. “Lake’s a great program, and it’s been quite a few years since we’ve beaten them. Any time you can beat them it’s a feather in your hat.”
Contact Mark Monroe at:
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