Sophomore right-hander Austin Ledbetter needed just 68 pitches to fire a three-hit shutout over seven innings and, with some clutch hitting by his teammates, earned the victory, in a 4-0 game against the White Hall Bulldogs on Tuesday at Bryant High School Field.
The win improved the Hornets to 8-1 going into Friday’s road game against Sheridan.
Offensively, the Hornets got ‘em on, got ‘em over, and got ‘em in. Ledbetter and Logan Catton had clutch two-out RBI singles.
Ledbetter was so efficient on the mound that he had only thrown 45 pitches through six innings. He retired seven batters on the first pitch, through six, never had to throw more than four pitches to any batter.
“He had 39 through five and I was thinking, we’ll just stick with him,” said Hornets coach Travis Queck. “Then that last inning — I didn’t expect bases loaded so I wasn’t quite ready for a possible change if a big hit happened.”
In the seventh, White Hall’s Josh Looney was hit by a two-strike pitch and, with one out, Bradley Reece cracked his second single of the game. Jay Seale grounded into a force at second to put runners at the corners.
Ledbetter then issued his lone walk of the game in a battle with White Hall’s Spencer Smith, who fouled off a trio of 3-2 deliveries.
Queck made a visit to the mound and, on Ledbetter’s second pitch to Baylor Owen, he induced a grounder to Noah Davis at second to end the game.
“A lot of the problem as far as the back end of the game for Austin was the delays between innings,” Queck said. “Time caught up to him. He still ended up throwing about as many pitches as he did against Waxahachie (Texas, in last week’s tournament) but tonight he was very efficient. Of course, (White Hall) was swinging early and he was able to take advantage of that. Austin did what we asked him to.”
The Hornets took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Logan Chambers led off with a single to left, stole second and was sacrificed to third by Davis. Ledbetter got the RBI when he hit a bouncer up the middle that the shortstop ranged over to snag. Chambers came home on the play.
“We talked about executing the short game, executing lead-off getting on and getting him in,” Queck said. “We talked about that, about how important that is. The first two runs scored off of lead-offs getting on base.”
In the second, Jake Wright led off with a single to deep short. He took second on Peyton Dillon’s one-out grounder to short. With two down, Catton blooped an RBI single to center.
“He came up big,” Queck said of Catton. “That’s huge. We have to have those. We’re going to find situations where we’re battling up and we have to have those later on.”
Ledbetter retired the first eight batters he faced. With two out in the top of the third, Ryan Duckworth doubled. But, on a nice play by Catton at third, lead-off man Zack Motsinger rolled out to end the inning.
Cade Drennan led off the fourth with a double down the left-field line. Courtesy runner Gage Stark came on and took third on a wild pitch. Logan Grant walked with one away then stole second before Peyton Dillon came through with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
Reece led off the fifth with a single, but Ledbetter fanned the next two and got own to foul out to Chambers at first to preserve the shutout.
The second hit for Chambers was a single to right with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Again, he stole second and, with two down, Ledbetter ripped a single to center to chase him home.
Walks to Drennan and Wright loaded the bases, but Owen came in to relieve starter Jon Johnson and got the third out on a grounder to third.
Ledbetter had retired six in a row and 10 of 11 going into the seventh.