OTTAWA — It’s a scenario that every young pitcher growing up has played out in their minds in the backyard countless times, and on Thursday night, Ottawa senior starting pitcher Jake Serby was able to make it a reality against Streator at King Field.
With the Pirates leading 1-0 in the top of the seventh and two outs, the Bulldogs had the bases loaded and Serby was readying to throw a full-count pitch for the fourth straight time after a trio of foul balls. Seconds later after a swing and a miss on a high fastball, the right-hander had completed a two-hit shutout to put an end to another classic game in the history of the rivalry.
“My curveball was really working for me the whole game and I feel that’s my best pitch. But that last pitch I just didn’t want to take any chances of throwing the ball in the dirt ... I just wanted to make sure it was a strike.”
— Ottawa senior pitcher Jake Serby
“My curveball was really working for me the whole game and I feel that’s my best pitch. But that last pitch I just didn’t want to take any chances of throwing the ball in the dirt ... I just wanted to make sure it was a strike,” said Serby, who said he’d never been in that situation before on the mound and finished with three walks and six strikeouts. “Other than that final pitch, I felt comfortable throwing my curve any count. I felt I mixed speeds well and (catcher) Ty (Trovero) and I were on the same page from start to finish.”
Ottawa (8-1) recorded three hits and drew six walks off Streator lefty starter and losing pitcher Payton Benning in the opening four innings, but left six runners on base, five in scoring position, and lined into a inning-ending double play. Serby meanwhile allowed just on runner to reach base - via a walk - through five.
In the bottom of the fifth, the hosts plated the contest’s only tally. Levi Sholders reached on a one-out infield error and moved to third on lefty Evan Evola’s bad hop single over Streator first baseman’s Logan Williamson’s head — one of the four hits for OHS. Michael Bruner then lifted a deep fly ball to center which sent Sholders jogging home with what proved to be the winning run.
“Jake is tough as nails, just a gamer, and a guy you feel good about your chances to come out on top anytime he takes the mound,” said Ottawa coach Brent Moore, who added his battery called all of their own pitches. “Coming out after football, his arm just keeps getting stronger and stronger. This was a well-played game on both sides. We had a number of opportunities early but some bad-luck baseball hurt us. It seemed we were getting bad break after bad break, but we kept saying Jake only needs one so keep battling. The kids did and Michael, who has been struggling a little bit, had a really good at-bat on the sacrifice fly.
“As a coach, a lot of the season is building trust in your pIayers and I put some trust into Jake and Ty tonight. They did a tremendous job working together and keeping them off the scoreboard all night long.”
Streator (8-3) loaded the base in the sixth with two outs after walks by Parker Phillis and Sean McGurk and Nolan Barr was hit by a pitch. Bulldogs’ No. 3 hitter Mason Telford then hit a smash up the middle, but Pirates’ shortstop Luke Cushing made a diving stop near the second and touch the bag with ball in glove to stop the threat. Then in the seventh, Brady Grabowski and Payton Benning had back-to-back singles, and after a fielder’s choice and a hit batsman filled the bases, Serby came out on top in the dream situation.
“I think this game was one that was very anticipated for both sides and it sure lived up to the billing. ... We just came up a little short tonight,” said Streator coach Brennon Martin, filling on for head coach Beau Albert. “We had some situations to score, but we just couldn’t capitalize, while they did to get their one run. I thought we played a very solid defensive game, and if you’d told me we play that well in the field and still lost before the game I’d been very surprised.
“For Payton, I think you just chalk it up to being one of those days. However, he did a great job of making a big pitch when he needed to and really that’s all that matters. I was happy with his intensity, his effort, and just how he battled for us.”
I worked for 25 years as a CNC operator and in 2005 answered an ad in The Times for a freelance sports writer position. I became a full-time sports writer/columnist for The Times in February of 2016.
I enjoy researching high school athletics history, and in my spare time like to do the same, but also play video games and watch Twitch.