Baseball: Sterling earns ‘clean,’ efficient win over Princeton

Sterling’s Mason Smithee is tagged out by Princeton’s Ace Christiansen trying to score on a sacrifice Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at Sterling’s Gartner Park.

STERLING – Tuesday’s game at Gartner Park was one of those you didn’t want to be late for or walk away from to take a phone call.

If you did, you would have missed a good portion of the game.

The Sterling Golden Warriors defeated Princeton 5-2 in what would be best described as an efficient game that was completed in less than an hour and a half.

Players on both sides liked the flow of the game.

“Felt like we played a pretty clean game of baseball,” said Sterling shortstop Garrett Polson, who contributed a hit and an RBI. “Went by quick. If you can play a quick game of baseball, clean and not have to use a whole lot of arms, it’s going to be helping us in the long run.”

“Oh yeah, I love ‘em,” Princeton starting pitcher Jordan Reinhardt said. “We’ve had like four of them. It feels nice. Just nice going in and out.”

It didn’t take either team long to get going offensively, both scoring in their first at-bats.

Ace Christiansen and Reinhardt each had hits for the Tigers (8-12) in the top of the first inning with Christiansen erased on a fielder’s choice by Nolan Kloepping. Will Lott got the Tigers on the board with a grounder to short to score Kloepping, reaching on an error.

The Golden Warriors (10-14-1) answered with two runs in the bottom half to take the lead and never gave it up.

Sterling’s Garrett Polson catches and tags out Princeton’s  Ace Christiansen trying to steal second Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at Sterling’s Gartner Park.

Mason Smithee, the Sterling first baseman, tied the game with a single to left to score Drew Nettleton, who walked. Polson scored on an error, but Smithee was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Noah LaPorte as he tagged up on a flyout by Nick Capp.

Princeton’s Noah LaPorte camps under a fly ball in center against Sterling Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at Sterling’s Gartner Park.

That ended the inning, but the Golden Warriors held a 2-1 lead.

In the second, Sterling’s Bryce Hartman walked with one out and came around to score on a throwing error on Cam Reyes’ sacrifice bunt to make it 3-1.

Jace Stuckey ripped an RBI single to center in the third inning to draw the Tigers within 3-2.

Reyes and Tatum Allen started a Sterling rally with consecutive hits to start the fifth inning. Nettleton sacrificed both into scoring position and Polson [a single] and Smithee [a groundout] brought them home to stretch the Golden Warriors’ lead to 5-2.

Sterling’s Rowan Workman fires a pitch against Princeton Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at Sterling’s Gartner Park.

Sterling starter Rowan Workman pitched four innings, allowing four hits, two runs [one earned] with one walk and a strikeout for the win.

Left-hander Braden Birdsley finished the game with three scoreless innings in relief for the save.

“I don’t think we all as a team played the best, but we finished the job,” Workman said.

Workman said he really didn’t know much about Princeton with the Golden Warriors focused on Monday’s doubleheader in Western Big Six Conference play against Quincy.

“I just go out and do my thing,” he said.

“We didn’t [know much], but we really don’t care,” Polson said. “We just want to play somebody and go out and compete against whoever. And that’s kind of been our mentality this year.”

Smithee said it was a good win for the Golden Warriors.

“We pitched pretty good. Lot of ground balls. Hit pretty good, too. Lot of hits, lot of walks,” he said.

Reinhardt said both Sterling pitchers proved a little difficult to hit.

“The first one was kind of weird seeing the ball out of his hand. The second one had a good curveball. I like hitting off lefties, though,” he said.

Princeton’s Jordan Reinhardt fires a pitch against Sterling Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at Sterling’s Gartner Park.

Reinhardt took the loss but had a solid outing. He scattered five hits with two walks over five innings, with just two of the five runs earned.

“I just went in throwing strikes, hoping my defense could back me up. I was struggling at first to throw strikes, but I settled in and they made some plays,” he said.

Reinhardt liked playing on the artificial turf field, the first time for the Tigers this season.

“It’s fun. I play on it for travel ball. Definitely new for high school ball, though. Takes awhile to get used to it,” he said.

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