Brock Netter, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — If you’re going to split a doubleheader, it’s better to win the second game and end on a positive note.
After a lackluster performance in Game 1 Thursday night, the Chillicothe Paints (15-10) looked like the team that won 11 straight games not too long ago, earning a 7-0 shutout win over Champion City (13-10).
“We’re a gritty team, and usually when the other team scores, we answer right back,” Paints manager Brian Bigam said. “We’re in a stretch of playing 14 games in 13 days, so it’s a long haul. [Pitcher] Rylan [Peets] did a great job of shutting Champion City down and going deep in the game. We needed that.”
Trey Smith (University of Indianapolis) got the Paints jumpstarted with an RBI single up the middle for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Two innings later, following an Ethan Hajdukovic (Western Michigan) RBI single to right field, Andrew Bacon (Northern Kentucky) and Smith both scored on a wild pitch that pushed the lead to 4-0.
“I don’t mind pitching in close games,” Peets said. “It helps keep your mind focused and in the game. But knowing that I had the run support was incredible. It makes a world of a difference knowing that if I go 1-2-3, these guys will put two runs on the board.”
The Paints continued to add to the lead in the next inning.
After Cody Orr (Tiffin) scored on a wild pitch, Gavin Homer (Penn State) sent a two-run home run over the left field fence for a 6-0 lead.
“I wasn’t really seeing the ball too well throughout the whole night,” Homer said. “I took a step back, relaxed, sat on the pitch I wanted and was able to get a good swing on it.”
While the offense was clicking on all cylinders, Peets was nothing short of money on the bump. Locating his pitches masterfully and mixing them up, he proceeded to slice and dice his way through the Kings’ lineup.
He threw six innings on the hill, allowing just two hits while striking out six batters.
“I was always taught that if you throw strikes and keep the ball low, good things will happen,” Peets said. “Champion City had a lot of big hits against us in the first three games and we kept the ball high or threw it down the middle. We worked low and the defense made a lot of plays behind me. All of that helped translate to hits at the plate.”
The Paints only had four hits, but made them count. Homer finished with a 2-run home run to lead the way, followed by RBI singles from Smith and Hajdukovic.
The first game, however, told a different story with home runs flying out of the stadium at will. Unfortunately, they were flying mostly off of Champion City’s bats as the Kings had a field day at the plate.
The Kings smacked six home runs in the opening contest and breezed to an easy victory over the Paints.
“Champion City has a lot of big hitters and they got ahead of us quick,” Bigam said. “Even last night, we fell behind on these guys and they made us pay. Game 1 was no different.”
Champion City’s Bo Seccombe started things with a solo bomb to left center field for a 1-0 lead. Although Orr tied things up with an RBI single, the Kings’ bats were too hot to handle.
After Champion City took a 2-1 off a fielder’s choice, Stephen Cullen launched a three-run blast over the scoreboard in left field for a 5-1 lead in the top of the third.
Not to be outdone, Hajdukovic joined the party with a solo shot to right field that cut the lead to 5-2 in the bottom half. But two two-run home runs from Jacob Freeland and Angel Jimenez in the top of the fifth ultimately put the game out of reach.
“It’s a pitcher’s job to get ahead of hitters and make them work,” Bigam said. “We didn’t locate in the zone very well.”
Collin Hoffmann (Otterbein) suffered the loss for the Paints in 4 1/3 innings of work, allowing six hits and four earned runs.
The Paints are back in action on Friday at Terre Haute, who then travels to Chillicothe for a weekend series at VA Memorial Stadium.
“We’ve played them 14 times all season, and 11 of them are in the first half,” Bigam said. “It’s a strange setup, but we’ll go there, compete and hope to pull out a win.”
To find news, updates, and more information about the Paints, be sure to visit chillicothepaints.com.