Thompson throws gem in Pam Pack victoryPublished 12:48am Saturday, April 5, 2014
Through the first eight games of the season, Washington struggled to fuse all three essential traits associated with being a successful baseball team: offense, defense and pitching. When the offense caught fire, the defense would commit several errors. When the pitching shined, the offense lay dormant.
On Friday, all the pieces came together, as the Pam Pack finally found their collective identity in a 6-2 victory over conference foe North Johnston. And junior ace Patrick Thompson proved to be the most impressive component.
“Patrick was completely dominant on the mound,” said manager Ryan Whitney. “He got a little tired at the end, and Xavier (Clark) came in and did a great job. Offensively, we definitely hit the ball well overall, and I was pleased with the low number of strikeouts. We stayed aggressive in the box and made good adjustments. Defensively, we did all the little things right.”
While hardy explosive, Washington’s offense stayed confident, aggressive and intelligent in the box. After Thompson retired the first three batters of the game – the third on two fastballs and a wicked 11-to-6 curve – Trey Brunson was the only hitter to reach via a walk in the bottom half of the inning, but the slow start didn’t discourage the Pam Pack.
Then in the second, Thompson drilled the first batter he faced square in the back with a low 80s fastball. The next Panthers’ batter lined a base hit up the middle. Although it looked like another long night for Washington, that single would be the last hit North Johnston recorded for the next four innings.
As Thompson shined, the offense gained momentum. Jamond Ebron looped a single over the head of the shortstop in the second, and Matt Dixon followed with a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt. Whitney’s cerebral small ball paid off two batters later when Bradley Smith ripped a single to centerfield, plating Ebron and putting the Pack up 1-0.
An inning later, Thompson helped his own cause and blasted a double off the wall in left, one of the deepest parts of Futrell Field. Neil Jennings followed suit with a single that scored the Pam Pack ace.
Washington broke through in the bottom of the fourth for three runs on one hit, three walks and a costly error by the Panthers’ pitcher. Thompson continued to post zeros in the hits column, and the defense behind him remained flawless.
“We didn’t make anything super fancy, but we just made the plays we’re supposed to make,” said Whitney. “Logan Little made some plays at third base. All three facets of the game we executed well tonight.”
In the bottom of the fifth, the offense continued to produce. After Dixon reached on a walk and North Johnston made a quick pitching change, an error by the new pitcher and a single up the middle from Matthew Black plated yet another run to put Washington up 6-0.
In the seventh with just one hit registered on the scoreboard, Thompson confidently ran out of the dugout to finish what he started. However, his stuff lacked intensity out of the gate, as fastball after fastball started to sail higher in the zone. He surrendered two walks, two singles and two runs before he was pulled for reliever Clark. Despite walking the third batter of the inning, Clark got the final two outs and closed out the victory for the Pam Pack.
Thompson surrendered just three hits and struck out 11 Panthers, and also finished with two hits at the plate.
“I hope it raises his confidence even more,” said Whitney. “I’m happy for him the same I would be happy for Zack because both of them – for the most part – have thrown well and deserve a couple more wins. When you throw that way and the defense plays as well as it did tonight, it’s going to give you added confidence. The biggest thing we’re trying to do as a team is rid ourselves of worry through success, and wins like this do that.”
Washington looks to carry its momentum and pick up another conference win on the road Tuesday when they face North Pitt.
“We need to maintain the mental edge we had tonight and be ready to go next week,” said Whitney.
The Panthers under manager Ryan Meadows are 6-6 (2-1 Eastern Plains) this season, and have won two of their last three contests.