GRANVILLE – Any pitcher will tell you it’s rare to have every pitch working inning after inning through an entire outing.
That was the case for Marquette Academy senior right-hander Aidan Thompson, however, in Tuesday’s Tri-County Conference game against rival Putnam County.
Thompson earned the complete-game victory after allowing only three hits, one earned run and one walk with five strikeouts in the Crusaders’ 4-1 victory over the Panthers at Ken Jenkins Field.
“Yes, all my pitches were working today, but it is also easier knowing every time I take the mound my defense is going to have my back,” said Thompson, who recorded 61 strikes on his 91 pitches. “Putnam County is a great hitting team – there really aren’t any weak spots – so you have to really bear down with each and every hitter. You have to, for the most part, pitch them backward.
“It’s always a real challenge when we play these guys, but that’s what makes games with them fun.”
“Aidan (Thompson) did a great job of keeping (Putnam County) off-balance and maybe guessing a bit all game. He was awesome today, and (pitching coach) Brad (Waldron) called a great game for him.”— Todd Hopkins, Marquette Academy baseball coach
The victory – which clinched the outright TCC championship – lifted Marquette to 23-2 overall and 12-1 in league action.
It was a rematch of last season’s Class 1A Elgin Harvest Christian Academy Sectional final, which Marquette won by the same score.
“To be honest, coming into the game I had totally forgotten that a win today would clinch the conference title,” said Thompson, who retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. “It, for whatever reason, never crossed my mind. I wasn’t until Hop told us in the postgame meeting that I remembered.”
The Crusaders grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Logan Nelson, Krew Bond and Tommy Durdan (RBI) smacked consecutive one-out singles off PC starter Troy Petty. Putnam County (16-11, 10-3) tied the game in the second, as Blake Billups one-hopped the fence in left-center for a double to start the inning, and later scored on a groundout by Jonathan Stunkel.
“Aidan did a great job of keeping them off-balance and maybe guessing a bit all game,” MA coach Todd Hopkins said. “He was awesome today, and [pitching coach] Brad [Waldron] called a great game for him. Give Petty credit too, he did a great job for them, and they have a really good team.
“It was a good game, and we were fortunate to string a couple of hits together there in the third to get the lead. The only thing I’m not happy about is that we weren’t able to add on in the final four innings. Playing good teams, you have to find a way to keep adding, but today Aidan was able to keep them in check after the second inning.”
Marquette scored three times in the third to take the lead for good.
Nelson led off with a double to the fence in right and quickly scored on a single up the middle by Bond. Durdan was then hit by a pitch before a fielding error on a ground ball by Charlie Mullen scored Bond. Durdan later scored on a wild pitch.
Petty took the loss despite scattering six hits, allowing two earned runs, with one walk and striking out six. Austin Mattingly pitched the seventh, walking two – one intentionally – and fanning two.
“You have to play a clean game against a team like Marquette. Give them credit, when we made a mistake, they took advantage of it,” Putnam County coach Chris Newsome said. “This is the type of game we expect when we play Marquette, we just hope to be on the other side of the decision. Hopefully we can make that happen [Wednesday].
“I thought both pitchers were very competitive in the strike zone all game long, but Thompson really kept us off balance. When a kid like that is getting all of his pitches over for strikes, you can’t go up there guessing, you have to trust yourself and your abilities.”
The two teams are scheduled to meet again Wednesday at Masinelli Field in Ottawa.