BUFFALO, W.Va. — Charleston Catholic enjoyed the heavy dose of fastballs being delivered by Buffalo starting pitcher Aaron Lewis during their Class A Region 4 Section 4 tournament game at Gator Field on Wednesday night.
The Irish enjoyed them even more when the Bison couldn’t field the ball.
Freshman Trae Swisher had a two-out, two-run single in the first inning and Catholic pitchers Connor Golden and Jordan Covelli didn’t surrender a run after the second inning in an 8-3 victory over Buffalo (15-11).
The sectional tournament began with Catholic (21-9), Buffalo and St. Joseph. With the ouster of St. Joe on Tuesday, the Irish and Bison began a best-of-three series Wednesday.
“We need to take a two-strike approach when we get into that box and look for a good fastball that we can put into play,” Catholic coach Bill Mehle said. “If we give them too many outs, off the mound, we’re probably not going to compete with them.”
Buffalo led 1-0 after a walk and sacrifice fly by Lewis. Catholic answered with three first-inning runs, helped by a walk, fielder’s choice, a run-scoring single by Sam McKown and Swisher’s two-run single.
Although Buffalo tied the score in the second on two Catholic errors and a double by Bison senior Blaik Caplinger — who was 3-for-3 with two doubles — coach Jimmy Tribble’s team wouldn’t score again versus the defending Class A state champions.
That was Catholic’s only two errors, but Buffalo had three as well on fielding miscues, indecision and wild pitches.
“Pitching is really out of the picture for us now,” said Tribble, who pulled his ace — Lewis — after three innings, seven strikeouts and three walks. “We just weren’t a very good hitting team. We’re good at hitting popups and foul balls. Our outfield didn’t play well and their outfield played outstanding. That was the difference.”
Catholic leftfielder Mike Martin made a diving catch of a fly ball in the sixth that followed Caplinger’s second double and the Irish outfield caught seven flyballs without an error. Martin caught four of the flyouts.
“That leftfielder played outstanding, their centerfielder … all of them played outstanding,” Tribble said.
The opportunistic Irish began putting the game away in the third when, with two outs, they scored on a wild pitch.
In the next inning, consecutive singles from Thad Jameson and Covelli, a double from Golden and a groundout from McKown pushed the lead to 7-3. Catholic added another run in the fifth with help from two Buffalo errors.
“When you put the ball in play, good things happen,” Mehle said.
Golden went six innings and wasn’t spectacular with three strikeouts and three walks, but managed to keep the Bison batters off balance in running his season record to 9-0. All three of his walks came in the first two innings.
“Connor came in pretty amped up,” Mehle said. “Coach (Will) Bobinger did a great job with him after the second inning, just talking to him between innings. He had a little mechanical adjustment he needed to make. He started hitting his spots.”
The series stays in Buffalo with the two teams meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the best-of-three set.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.