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  • Val T.

Herd reaches base 8 times in doubleheader, leads Caston to sweep of Pioneer

DuVall pitches 4-hitter in Game 1, Zeider tosses 3-hitter in Game 2


Sports Editor, RTC

Noah Herd Pete DuVall Talon Zeider

FULTON — Noah Herd reached base in all eight plate appearances in a doubleheader, and Pete DuVall and Talon Zeider authored complete game mound wins to lead the Caston baseball team to a sweep over Pioneer Friday.

Caston won the first game 8-1 and the second game 8-2.

Caleb Stinson and Grant Yadon had two RBIs each in the opener, and Caston took advantage of a crucial error with the bases loaded in the fourth inning that allowed two runs to score.

In the nightcap, Mollenkopf had two hits and three RBIs, and Hanna had three hits.

Hanna walked in all four plate appearances in Game 1. He had three singles and a walk in Game 2.

“It was an interesting night for sure,” Herd said. “Usually, when I’m going up to the plate, I got runners on, and I’m just trying to put a ball in play to advance a runner or get them across the plate.”

Both teams are 9-9 overall. Caston is 8-3 in the Hoosier North, and Pioneer is 7-5. The losses eliminated Pioneer from conference title contention.

The teams were scheduled to meet in Royal Center Thursday, but that game was postponed due to rain, which necessitated the doubleheader.

“It doesn’t help that we play a doubleheader against a rival,” Pioneer coach Josh Hardy said. “But it’s just how it is with the weather. We just weren’t ready to go. That’s not the team we’ve had all year.”

In other action affecting the conference race, LaVille rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat Knox 9-6, and Winamac’s Addison Allen pitched a one-hitter in a 2-0 win over North Judson.

LaVille is 9-2 and leads Caston by a game. Caston has a two-game series against Culver starting Monday and controls its destiny to at least a share of the title. Caston’s final conference game is at home against LaVille next Friday.

North Judson, who is 7-3 in conference play and who starts a two-game set with Pioneer Monday, is in third place. Winamac is 7-4 and in fourth place and also still in the conference mix.

Winamac travels to North Judson for a makeup game next Friday.

Game 1: Caston 8, Pioneer 1

Drew McKaig led off the bottom of the first – per Hoosier North rules, each team is the home team for one game in a conference doubleheader – with a double off DuVall, but that was the lone extra-base hit Pioneer had for the entire doubleheader. Brayden Erickson’s two-out RBI single gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

Erickson blanked Caston through three innings on the mound, but the Comets got to him for four runs in the fourth.

Lance Hanna led off with a double, and Gavin Mollenkopf walked. DuVall struck out looking, but Herd walked to load the bases.

Stinson delivered a liner to shallow center for an RBI single to tie the game, and freshman designated hitter Eli Holloway singled to right to score Mollenkopf and put Caston ahead 2-1.

Erickson then struck out Grant Yadon.

That brought up No. 9 batter Edison Byrum, who hit a chopper over the mound on a 3-2 pitch that got under the glove of the shortstop for an error that allowed two runs to score and make it 4-1.

Byrum added an RBI walk off reliever Brodie Howard in the sixth to make it 5-1.

In the seventh, Howard walked Hanna, hit Mollenkopf with a pitch and walked Herd to load the bases.

Stinson grounded to short with Erickson ranging to the hole and throwing to third for a forceout that drove in Hanna.

Two batters later, Yadon lined a two-out, two-run single to left to make it 8-1.

DuVall allowed only three baserunners after the first inning. Eli Guffey singled off him to start the fourth, but he got Erickson on a foul pop to first base. Then, with Guffey moving on the pitch, Miller smoked a liner right at second baseman Ryan Spin, who caught it and threw to first for an easy double play.

With two on and two out in the sixth, he got Erickson to line out to Byrum in deep left to end the inning.

He spoke of “pitching backwards.” In other words, throw the pitch that the opponent is least expecting, which often means throwing the curve ball when behind in the count.

“Just fastball, curve ball,” DuVall said when asked what was working. “What I’ve been throwing all year. Coach knows when to call the right pitch, and I was able to find it tonight.”

Game 2: Caston 8, Pioneer 2

Caston opened the game with six consecutive hits off Pioneer starter McKaig to build a 5-0 lead.

Zeider singled, went to second on a balk and went to third on Hanna’s bloop double to right-center.

Mollenkopf’s two-run single drove home Zeider and Hanna and made it 2-0.

Mollenkopf stole second and went to third on DuVall’s single in the hole on the left side. DuVall advanced to second when the throw went home.

Herd then singled to drive home Mollenkopf, and when the ball was bobbled in center field, DuVall also scored.

Herd went to second on a balk and scored when Stinson cranked a double to deep left over the left fielder’s head.

DuVall’s RBI grounder to short in the second made it 6-0. 

“I think it was good hitting by Caston,” Hardy said. “They hit a first-pitch fastball, at least the first batter did. For Drew, it was probably the best team he’s faced hitting-wise. He threw against West Central and Triton, but other than that, this was the best team he was going to face. He didn’t do bad out there, but they just hit the ball well.”

DuVall also shined defensively at third base. Erickson floated a short popup over Zeider’s head, but DuVall pounced and lunged to the turf to make the catch. He then got up and threw to first to double off Lane Weldy, who had reached on an error, to end the inning.

Hanna also helped out defensively from shortstop, throwing out Howard from deep in the hole to end the fifth.

Caston committed 10 errors in a 12-1 loss in six innings to Tippecanoe Valley on May 2. In the four games since against Knox and Pioneer, Caston has committed one error total and gone 4-0.

“It’s mental,” Caston coach Blake Mollenkopf said. “I think this is a strong defensive group. I think the Valley night, it just snowballed on us a little bit, and we lacked confidence, and things happen. But Knox, we just came with a different approach, kind of relaxed, and made some plays. Fifteen-to-eighteen-year old kids, once they get confident and make one play, another play happens. And then we start making great plays like you saw this evening.”

He called DuVall’s play on Erickson’s pop-up one of the top 10 plays he has seen in his nearly two decades as coach.

Byrum scored on a wild pitch, and Mollenkopf had an RBI groundout in the sixth to make it 8-0.

Lucas Perry’s two-out, two-run single in the seventh spoiled Zeider’s shutout bid.

Game 1: Caston 8, Pioneer 1

Caston 000 401 3 – 8 8 0

Pioneer 100 000 0 – 1 4 2

WP – Pete DuVall (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K)

LP – Brayden Erickson (4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K)

2B – Drew McKaig (PIO), Lance Hanna (CAS)

Game 2: Caston 8, Pioneer 2

Pioneer 000 000 2 – 2 3 3

Caston 510 002 X – 8 12 1

WP – Talon Zeider (7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K)

LP – Drew McKaig (2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 2 K)

2B – Lance Hanna (CAS), Caleb Stinson (CAS), Gavin Mollenkopf (CAS)

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