STRIKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKEOUT!: Ocker fans 24, sets school record in loss
Sophomore right-hander Nathan Ocker set a school record with an amazing 24 strikeout performance in nine innings of Middletown’s 12-inning, 5-2 loss to Palmyra on Thursday, April 25 in Middletown.
STRIKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKEOUT!: Ocker fans 24, sets school record in loss
Ocker kept a consistently sharp fastball down in the strike zone that completely dominated Palmyra’s hitters throughout the Keystone Division scrap. He issued zero walks and yielded just two hits, a pair of singles, before leaving the mound after reaching his allowed number of innings after nine.
The only negative to the performance was that Ocker left the game with the score tied at 1-1 and the Cougars eventually scored 3 runs in the top of the 12th inning to earn the victory. Those deciding runs came against reliever Nick Drawbaugh, who had pitched well in his three innings of work. The Blue Raiders had numerous chances to pull out a much-needed victory for Ocker or Drawbaugh but simply could not come up with a key hit to produce a win.
In the season’s first half, the Raiders and Cougars had combined for 21 runs in an exciting 11-10 victory for the Middletown squad. This second meeting was nothing like that one.
Palmyra scored a run in the top of the first inning and Middletown matched that with a run in the bottom of the second. The 1-1 deadlock remained unchanged until Palmyra broke the tie in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Facing the one-run deficit in the home half of the 11th, the Raiders produced another tying run to send the game into the 12th. Palmyra then came up with a 3-run rally in the top of the 12th to steal the win.
Ocker actually had four strikeouts in the first inning, but a ball in the dirt on the third whiff allowed Trey Baker to reach first. Baker stole second and scored on a single by teammate Mitchell Sauley to give the Cougars the early 1-0 lead.
Two more strikeouts by Ocker in the top of the second kept the score unchanged.
In the bottom of the second, Ocker and Jordan Flowers drew one-out walks and Dylan Bower was hit by a pitch with two outs to load the bases. A wild pitch by Bobby Dorta with Eddie Finsterbush at the plate allowed Ocker to score the tying run.
With eight strikeouts already in the book, Ocker added eight more over the next four innings to run his total to 16.
But the Raiders also came up empty during the span and the score remained deadlocked at 1-1.
In the bottom of the sixth, Middletown’s Brett Altland walked and Cody Fox singled, but both runners were stranded. Bower was also left on base in the home half of the seventh inning after reaching first on an infield single with two outs.
Ocker’s 19th, 20th and 21st strikeouts came in the top of the eighth as he struck out the side.
Kyle Finsterbush led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single, but he, too, was left stranded.
Ocker finished up his historic performance with three more strikeouts in the top of the ninth, and the Raiders went down in order in the bottom of the frame.
Drawbaugh took over on the mound for the Middletown defense in the top of the 10th and got two quick outs before Palmyra’s Griffin Mitchell reached base on a bunt single. But the Cougar runner was thrown out on catcher Fox’s peg to Kyle Finsterbush at second.
Kyle Finsterbush was safe on an error with two outs in the bottom of the 10th but also was left stranded.
The Cougars broke the tie in the top of the 11th on an RBI single by Baker.
Needing to break their scoreless drought to keep the game going, the Raiders came up with a tying run in the bottom of the frame. Fox led off with an infield single, stole second and went to third on a balk by Palmyra pitcher Baker, who had taken over for Dorta in the seventh inning. Ocker’s sacrifice fly to right field produced the run.
A great opportunity to pull out the win came when Flowers and Zach Sims drew back-to-back walks with two outs.
But Bower’s lineout to second ended the threat.
The Palmyra offense finally broke out in the top of the 12th. A leadoff single, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a fielder’s choice ground ball pushed in one run and a two-out triple by Baker drove in two more.
Sauley took over on the mound for the Cougars in the bottom of the frame and struck out two Middletown batters before Altland drew a base on balls. But a groundout finished off the win for the Cougars and spoiled an otherwise outstanding day for Ocker and his Middletown teammates.
Susquehanna Twp. 2
Tough luck had also hit Sims, Middletown’s other ace pitcher, when the Raiders came up on the short end of a 2-1 final score at Susquehanna Twp. on Tuesday, April 23.
Sims, a classmate of Ocker, registered nine strikeouts in an impressive outing but was stung by a one-out homerun by the Indians’ Laron Mitchell in the bottom of the seventh inning that made the difference.
And, again, the Raiders had their chances, but could not produce the clutch hits needed to push runs across the plate.
The Indians scored their first run in the bottom of the second inning following a leadoff single and a pair of Middletown errors.
The 1-0 score stayed firmly in place as Sims and Susquehanna’s Anthony Atticks staged a solid pitching duel.
In the top of the sixth inning, Bower was safe on an error to lead off the frame for Middletown, stole second and then went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Altland. Fox’s fielder’s choice grounder knocked in Bower to tie the score at 1-1.
The Indians threatened to break the tie in the bottom of the sixth, but Fox and Kyle Finsterbush hooked up to erase Atticks on an attempted steal.
In the top of the seventh, Drawbaugh singled with one out and courtesy runner Zach Buell stole second to put a Middletown runner in scoring position. But Atticks got Sims on a pop up and fanned Eddie Finsterbush to end the threat.
Sims struck out Susquehanna’s leadoff hitter, Joe Runyan, to start the bottom of the seventh but Mitchell swung on a fastball over the plate that he drove over the left field fence for the game-winning homer.
Milton Hershey 0
Following those two intense games, the Raiders needed a breather – and got just what they wanted at Milton Hershey on Friday, April 26.
Getting off to a good start, and with the cross-over game never really in doubt, the Middletown nine dusted the host Spartans in five innings for their seventh win of the year.
Flowers, also a sophomore, picked up the pitching win with eight strikeouts while giving up three walks and just one hit, an infield single in the fourth inning.
The Middletown offense recorded six hits, including a two-run triple by Flowers, in the victory. The hits and runs came early.
Ryan Popp and Flowers punched out back-to-back singles with one out in the top of the first inning and Drawbaugh was hit by a pitch to load the bases against Milton Hershey starter Jimmy McDonnell. A passed ball with Ocker at the plate pushed in the first run and a wild pitch with Ethan Kell batting allowed Flowers to dart home for run No. 2.
In the top of the second, Sims led off with a single, stole second on a groundout and raced all the way home on a Spartan throwing error to give the Raiders a 3-0 lead.
After Flowers struck out the side in the home half of the second, the Middletown nine collected two more runs in the top of the third. After again getting hit by a pitch to reach base with one out, Drawbaugh went to second on a wild pitch and made it to third on Ocker’s bunt single. Kell’s sac fly knocked in Drawbaugh.
Ocker, who had stolen second and moved to third on a passed ball, scored when Sims was safe on an error. Those runs gave the Raiders a 5-0 advantage.
Flowers walked Milton Hershey’s Dionte Satterfield to lead off the home half of the third, but the runner was picked off at first on a throw from Kell to Drawbaugh. Two straight strikeouts by Flowers ended the inning.
Bower was safe on an error to lead off a fourth inning that produced four more Middletown runs. Altland and Fox drew back-to-back walks to load the bases before Popp’s fielder’s choice grounder pushed in the first run. With Altland at third and Fox on second, Flowers drove a 2-2 pitch over the left fielder’s head for a two-run triple to make it an 8-0 game.
Run No. 9 came when Drawbaugh was safe on an error.
Flowers gave up his only hit of the game with two outs in the bottom of the fourth but induced a pop-up to end the Spartans’ chance to break their scoreless drought.
After Kell opened up the top of the fifth with a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Brandon Harper, Kyle
Finsterbush walked and Bower poked an RBI single to left for run No. 10.
Kyle Finsterbush later scored from third on a passed ball for Middletown’s 11th run.
Flowers picked up two strikeouts and a groundout to end the game early.
Larry Etter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.