Baseball: WW South lefty stymies BenetBenet catcher Kevin Jendra and the home plate umpire vacate the baseball field at Benet Academy as the sprinkler system comes on to start an inning. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 2, 2012 10:48PM
At any level, every baseball coach will tell you good pitching is always at a premium.
That premium only increases when you start talking about getting good left-handed pitching.
Taking the mound for only the third time in his varsity career, Wheaton Warrenville South sophomore left-hander Baylor Holmes proved to be worthy of the task in front of him.
Pitching with the confidence one might find with a junior or a senior, Holmes stymied Benet for the majority of the afternoon to lead his team to a 4-3 victory over the Redwings Monday in Lisle.
“He’s gonna be a good one for a couple years. (He) mixed up his pitches (well),” Benet coach Scott Lawler said of Holmes. “We swung at his pitches and didn’t capitalize against him at all. Got to give him a lot of credit.”
Beginning his afternoon by recording three strikeouts while stranding a pair of Redwings’ runners in a scoreless first inning, Holmes offered an appetizer to the entrée that would follow throughout the remainder of the afternoon.
In his six innings of work, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Holmes allowed just one earned run on two hits while fanning eight to earn the victory for the Tigers.
“First off, (I had) confidence in my coach and confidence in me, also. Took me a while to get settled in and get into a groove. But after about three or four innings, I got settled in,” Holmes said. “I was ready to go.”
Walking a pair of runners in the first and letting two runners get on base courtesy of a walk and hitting a batter in Benet’s three-run third, Holmes got out of trouble by doing what he was doing best Monday — missing bats.
Holmes (2-1) posted strikeouts to get out of both of those innings.
“He looked a little erratic early on — I think he had five free passes with the four walks and the hit batsman (in the third),” Wheaton Warrenville South coach Tim Brylka said. “But they weren’t squaring him up. They weren’t hitting him hard. So great outing from Baylor.”
Responding after their young lefty posted three strikeouts in the first, the Tigers gave him a three-run cushion in the second after coming up with three RBI on three consecutive plays, highlighted by Zach Kyllonen smacking an RBI double over the head of Redwings’ center fielder Billy Tumpane to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
“It felt great. Having that lead really builds your confidence in your pitches and you know you can start mixing it up more, instead of just trying to paint the strike zone,” Holmes said. “We were up by three runs. It just feels great having a good backup, just knowing that when batters get hits, it’s fine.”
Senior right-hander Bobby Hayes (1-2) was saddled with the tough luck loss for the Redwings after going six-plus innings, allowing four runs and scattering eight hits.
Trailing 3-0 after an inning-and-a-half, the Redwings tied the game in the third after Tigers’ shortstop Mike Shelton lost a ball in the sun, allowing two runs to score.
The eventual game-winning run for Wheaton Warrenville South (5-3) came in the fifth, courtesy of an RBI single to center from its senior first baseman, Ryan Kelly. Kelly’s single brought home pinch-runner Mike Saccucci, who was running for catcher Rich O’Neil after O’Neil reached base via an error from Benet senior third baseman Sam Santa Maria.
The one-run loss for Benet represented yet another close call in the early going that has seen its four losses so far on the year come by a combined five runs.
Benet (5-4) loaded the bases with one out in the seventh off the man who came in to replace Holmes in the seventh, Tigers’ senior right-hander Matt Simpson. Chris Whelan and Chris Stout both recorded singles to put runners at the corners before Simpson intentionally walked Santa Maria.
But with the Redwings’ cleanup and No. 5 hitters Pat McInerney and Andrew Mogni, Simpson bore down by getting McInerney to pop up into the infield, instituting the infield fly, and inducing Mogni to fly out to center to preserve the victory.
“Had confidence in Matt that he was gonna get the job done. It’s tough to put him in that spot, but he responded,” Brylka said.