Sims, Ocker shine on mound
Middletown pitchers Zack Sims and Nathan Ocker combined for 24 strikeouts in a pair of varsity games last week as the Blue Raiders went 1-and-1 in the first full week of action.
Sims, Ocker shine on mound
Sims struck out 15 batters in a 5-3 win over visiting Susquehanna Twp. on Wednesday, March 27 and Ocker fanned nine in a 4-2 loss at East Pennsboro on Thursday, March 28.
The big story line here, however, is that both players are sophomores and project a promising picture for success at Middletown.
Although the Middletown offensive game plan is still a work in progress, and there were a couple errors made by the defense in the team’s first three games, the solid pitching has been a real plus for Coach Mike Carnes’ 2013 squad. That aspect alone will keep the Raiders in contention as the other parts of the game catch up.
Susquehanna Twp. 3
Using a really good fastball and timely curve ball against Susquehanna batters throughout the game, Sims consistently threw strikes in his big outing on Wednesday at Middletown on his way to a 5-0 shutout through the first six innings.
The Indians scored all three of their runs in the top of the seventh to break up the shutout.
Matched up against pre-season league all-star and all-state potential pitching candidate LeRon Mitchell, Sims won the battle on the hill. Mitchell finished with eight strikeouts in the loss.
Sims struck out the side in the first inning and then recorded three more K’s in the second after giving up a leadoff walk. After going scoreless in their first at-bats, the Raiders (1-2) manufactured three runs in the bottom of the second inning to take the lead.
Nick Drawbaugh and Jordan Flowers were safe on errors to lead off the inning, and Eddie Finsterbush made it to first on another Indian error that allowed Drawbaugh to score from third.
Yet another Susquehanna error with Ocker batting gave Flowers a free pass home for run No. 2.
An RBI groundout by Kyle Finsterbush with one out pushed in the third run as the Raiders jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
Sims again struck out the side in the top of the third, then gave up his first hit, an infield single, in the fourth. He set down the Indians in order in the fifth to preserve the 3-0 lead. Mitchell kept the Raiders from scoring in the third and fourth.
Needing some insurance runs to hold onto their advantage, the Raiders picked up one in the home half of the fifth.
With one out, Cody Fox drove a double to the left field fence and ran to third on a wild pitch to set up the run. Ryan Popp’s clutch RBI single pushed home run No. 4for the home team.
Sims recorded strikeout number 13 in the sixth and the Raider defense did the rest to keep the Indians (0-2) off the board. Dylan Bower scooped up a hard grounder at third and threw the second batter out a first and Ocker followed with a duplicate play from shortstop to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Flowers led off with a walk and stolen base but appeared to be left stranded as new Susquehanna pitcher Laures Malia got two quick outs. But a throwing error by the Indians allowed Bower to make it safely to first base and allowed Flowers to score the fifth Middletown run.
The Indians rallied in the top of the seventh with a leadoff single, a one-out base hit and a walk that loaded the bases with two outs. A hard hit double by Bryce Siebert that stayed just fair down the third base line cleared the bases to make it a 5-3 game.
Sims, however, induced another groundout to short to end the threat and lock up the Middletown victory.
East Pennsboro 4
On Thursday afternoon in Enola, the Raiders worked their way to a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but the host Panthers scored one run in the bottom of the frame, added two more in the third and another in the fifth on their way to the win.
Trying to rally late, the Raiders scored a run in the top of the seventh and had two runners on base before the Panthers ended the threat with a good defensive play for the final out.
Ocker, who had lost a tough decision at Elizabethtown in the season opener, struck out nine East Penn batters and gave up just five hits in the loss.
The Raiders got off to a good start by recording their first run in the top of the first inning. Fox led off by drawing a base on balls and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Popp. A sharp single to left by Sims drove Fox home with the initial run of the contest. But Sims and Flowers, who had drawn a two-out walk, were left stranded.
The Panthers (2-1) tied the game in the bottom of the second with an unearned run. Good defense by the Raiders prevented further damage.
The Raiders left another runner stranded in the top of the third and East Pennsboro broke the deadlock in the home half of the inning, punching out three singles and taking a 3-1 lead.
A scoreless fourth inning and a 1-2-3 outing by the Raider offense in the top of the fifth kept the score unchanged.
East Penn picked up another run in the bottom of the fifth on just one hit after the Middletown offense made a pair of fielding errors with two outs.
In the top of the seventh, Eddie Finsterbush led off with a single, went to second on a throwing error and reached third on a groundout by Ocker. After Bower made it to first on a fielding indecision by the Panthers, Eddie Finsterbush raced home on Kyle Finsterbush’s fielder’s choice ground out.
Fox’s infield single put two Middletown runners on base with two outs as the rally was kept alive. But Panther second baseman Chase Shulda made a nice defensive play on a hard grounder by Popp and tossed to first for the final out of the game.
Larry Etter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.