COAL CITY – When the Morris and Coal City baseball teams get together, you can usually expect a hard-fought, tightly contested game.
Saturday afternoon was no exception, as the Redskins used the pitching combination of Ryan Fischer and Cody Bledsoe and timely hits off the bats of Brennan Johnson and Bledsoe to come away with a 4-0 nonconference victory, improving to 10-6 on the season.
Fischer, a junior right-hander, was dominant in his five innings, allowing just one hit and striking out seven against two walks. Bledsoe, a senior lefty, retired all six of the batters he faced in the final two innings, striking out one.
“My fastball was my best pitch today,” Fischer said. “The curve wasn’t really there, so I just threw strikes with my fastball.”
Coal City (10-7) had a scoring threat in the top of the second. With one out, Ashton Harvey reached on a throwing error and went to third on a single by Nolan Berger, the Coalers’ only hit of the game. Berger stole second, but Morris catcher Owen Burns faked the throw to second and caught Harvey too far off the bag at third. Fischer struck out the next hitter to get out of the inning.
After a walk with one out in the third, Fischer retired the final eight batters he faced, the last three on strikeouts. Add in Bledsoe’s two perfect innings, and Morris pitching retired the final 14 Coal City batters.
“Ryan was more efficient today,” Morris coach Todd Kein said. “He is learning that a strike is his best friend. I was happy to see him throw well today.
“Our defense came through with some big plays, too. On a day like this, there wasn’t going to be a ton of offense, so making the plays when we had to was big.”
Morris opened the scoring in the top of the fourth. Burns led off by reaching on an error, and a single by Bledsoe moved courtesy runner Grayson Weber to second. Matt Lawton followed with a perfectly placed bunt that went for a single to load the bases before Brennan Johnson poked a double to left that landed on the foul line, scoring both Weber and Bledsoe.
With two outs in the fifth, Nathan Jepson reached on an error and went to third on a single by Burns. Bledsoe followed with a double to score Jepson and Weber, who had run for Burns.
“We got a couple of key hits by Brennan and Cody,” Kein said. “This is the way we should be playing at this time of year. This was a good tune-up for the post-season.”
Morris begins Class 3A regional play at Ottawa on Friday, while Coal City will host Pontiac in a 2A regional opener Friday.
Caden Kuder was a tough-luck loser for Coal City. He allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, on six hits and struck out four in six innings.
“Their pitchers threw great,” Coal City coach Greg Wills said. “But we ran ourselves into a couple of outs and made it a little easier on them.
“Caden Kuder threw well. This is a kid that didn’t start the year on the varsity. We had a couple pitchers get hurt and Caden had to come up from the sophomore team and has done a great job for us. This is the type of game we will see in the regional, so it was good to have a tune-up like this.”