Talk about an auspicious start to a high school baseball career.
Freshman Devan Rich, summoned from the bullpen after an injury to Cole Berry, got the final two outs to save Mt. Carmel’s first victory of the season on Saturday at Dee White Field. The 7-6 win over Carmi earned a split on the day for the Golden Aces after dropping the opener of a doubleheader, 9-7.
“It was hard. But I got through it,” said Rich of his varsity debut after a line drive off Berry’s pitching hand forced the senior’s exit with one out in the seventh inning.
Carmi (3-4) scored twice in the inning to narrow the deficit to one run, so the pressure of getting the collar off the team after four straight losses weighed heavily on Rich. “The pressure is always a factor,” he said
Berry, who iced his middle finger down after the injury and does not anticipate further complications, came on in the fourth after starter Reece Metcalf reached his pitch count limit. The righthanded Berry became the first Mt. Carmel hurler of the season to pitch with a lead after the Aces scored twice in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead, the team’s first after 30 innings of play.
“It’s so much easier to pitch with the lead,” Berry said. “It’s like insurance. If something happens to the lead, you know you’ve got insurance.”
Something did happen to the lead initially. Carmi scored twice in the fifth against Cole to tie the game, 4-4. But, Mt. Carmel (1-4) came right back in the home half on Alex Obermeyer’s two-run single to regain the edge, 6-4. Metcalf added an RBI single in the sixth to make it 7-4, a hit that became the game-winner.
Rich wasn’t the only freshman to star in this one.
Pete Smith had two RBI hits on the day, the first an opposite field drive to left that tied the game, 2-2, in the third. An inning later, Smith’s two-run single lifted the Aces into their first lead of the spring, 4-2. “When we play with the lead we get a lot more confident,” said Smith who finished with three hits on the day. “It just keeps getting better.”
The confidence level showed on defense as well. In the sixth, Aces shortstop Jared Piper snared a line drive and catcher Briar Flaharty threw out a runner at second on a steal attempt.
“After the game, I gave the game ball to Rich, and talked about Smith getting three hits,” said Aces manager John Copeland. “I challenged my upperclassmen. I said ‘These guys did a good thing for us today. Now we’ve got to get leadership from the upperclassmen.’ I really think those guys will do it.”
In the opener, Carmi held off the Aces, 9-7. The hosts put together a two-out rally to score twice in the bottom of the seventh, but couldn’t sustain it, leaving the tying runs on base at the close. “We played good enough to win, we were just missing a few things here and there,” Copeland sand. “That was a tough loss. But, anytime you see your guys bounce back to win the second game, that’s a positive thing.”
Both teams collected eight hits in the game, but Carmi made five errors. Smith started for the Aces, relieved in the fourth by senior Christian Seaton.
Mt. Carmel completes its homestand on Monday against Vincennes Rivet at 4:30 p.m.