Pitchers freeze lineups with a curveball

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Expanded arsenal of arm talent results in low scoring affair

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  • Cayden Phillips of the Pinnacle Bank White squad threw three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six in a 3-2 win over the Aurora Cooperative Red team. News-Register/Richard Rhoden
    Cayden Phillips of the Pinnacle Bank White squad threw three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six in a 3-2 win over the Aurora Cooperative Red team. News-Register/Richard Rhoden
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In the first two games of the Aurora Legion COVID Series, the two teams combined for 26 runs.

With an open arsenal of pitching in game three, the run total was slashed to five.

Falling behind 0-2 in the series so far, the Pinnacle Bank White team clung to a one-run lead for much of the afternoon in a 3-2 victory over Aurora Cooperative Red Sunday at Mitchell Field.

During another hot and sweltering afternoon on the diamond, this time it was the pitching staff that took the glory. As PB White skipper Jeremy Burgener pointed out, Sunday’s performance from both teams showed the improvement of a month’s work.

“We played clean baseball across the board,” Burgener said. “Everyone started mixing in curveballs this week and that played into some of the at-bats. It keeps the hitters guessing.” One of the nastiest off-speed

One of the nastiest off-speed throws came from the right arm of PB White’s Cayden Phillips. The Aurora newcomer tossed the final three innings of scoreless baseball on one hit with six strikeouts.

Despite AC Red having a couple runners in scoring position late, Phillips limboed his way out of every situation.

“We were planning on bringing in Cayden for the last three innings from the start. It just so happens we were already up one,” Burgener said. “They (AC Red) had runners on second and third a couple times and he pitched out of it.”

Aurora Cooperative Red coach Bodie Moeller also noted after the game that his team wanted to find that timely hit a bit too much and overexerted themselves. “Some of

“Some of our young guys tried a bit too hard,” Moeller said. “We were swinging at pitches we wouldn’t normally swing at or didn’t use our fundamentals.”

If the first inning was any indication, the game would have been another run-filled affair.

After back-to-back singles from Devin Otto and Cauy Walters to open the game for PB White, Cam Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring home the game’s first run.

AC Red answered the call in the bottom half of the first as Jayson Havens blasted a tworun double, taking a 2-1 lead.

However, with two on and one out, AC Red was unable to pad its lead any further.

Pinnacle Bank White tied the game in the top of the third with a double that scored Brady Collingham, who had just stolen second moments before.

However, unlike the previous two games, the Aurora Cooperative Red team could never find the timely hit that drove in a couple runs.

“I thought we came out a bit slow today,” Moeller pointed out. “We may have been comfortable with the 2-0 lead but the White team came to play. We battled but just didn’t have some things go our way.”

The eventual winning run for PB White came in the top of the fourth as Ca. Phillips reached base on a walk, stole second and third before racing home on a wild pitch. It also ended up being the game’s final run.

A tough break for the AC Red team came in the bottom half of the fourth as the home team had some offense warming up.

Chase Phillips and Kyle Larson slapped back-to-back singles before Jameson Herzberg walked, loading the bases for Seth Stevens.

Stevens stung a pitch back up the middle as Trevor Moeller made the force to Walters at second to nab Herzberg.

By rule, since Herzberg didn’t slide into the base, the third out was called at first for interference, ending the inning without AC Red scoring at all. It was just one of several unfortunate happenings for AC Red Sunday.

Earlier in the game, a similar scenario unfolded for PB White on offense, but because AC Red didn’t attempt to turn the double play, there was no interference call.

PB White had two different occasions where it made a play in the field that prevented an AC Red runner from scoring, and eventually got out of the inning without damage.

“It wasn’t necessarily making a great play, but it saved a run and that was huge in a 3-2 game,” Burgener said. “Little things like that were big. We still didn’t get that big hit on offense, but we made plays on defense.”

AC Red had a chance in the sixth to possibly tie the game as Ch. Phillips reached base on an error.

Larson belted one to center that could have scored Phillips, but a diving snag from Collingham was the saving grace for PB White.

Ch. Phillips eventually reached third after stealing second and third, but was unable to score.

Ca. Phillips slammed the door shut on AC Red in the seventh, striking out the side to pick up the win. Game three was the first in which AC Red trailed in the later innings and now that they’ve played through that situation, Moeller hopes they’re better prepared for it to come up again.

“Hopefully, now that we’ve been in that situation, when things hit us in the face, we’re ready for it and bounce back,” Moeller said.

The first two games, Burgener and Moeller held the pitching staffs to exclusively throwing fastballs and finding the strike zone to help hitters find the zone. Game three was the first

Game three was the first of which the coaches allowed the pitching staffs to open the game up with breaking balls, and the difference was notice-able.

“It helped keep the score down and the game moving along,” Burgener said. “You can’t just sit back for the fastball. You have to react and hit now.”

Moeller added that strikes thrown for both teams was up despite adding different pitches and the improvement was evident all around.

“Pitching was really crisp -- we’re throwing a lot more strikes and we made a lot of plays,” Moeller commented. “All around, I’m happy to see the improvement from both teams.”

For PB White, Walters and Otto each had two hits while Walters and Cam Jones added RBIs.

Jones and Otto were the other pitchers for PB White Sunday, combining for four innings with two runs on seven hits and four strikeouts.

The Pinnacle Bank White pitching staff threw 77 strikes to 37 balls, easily its best margin of the series to date.

Of Aurora Cooperative Red’s eight hits, Dylan Dubas and Havens each had two while Havens had the pair of RBIs.

Jayden Quandt, Connor Smith and Jayson Havens pitched for AC Red Sunday, allowing five hits and three runs with five strikeouts.

In comparison, AC Red threw 74 strikes to 47 balls.

Game four of the Aurora Legion COVID Series is slated for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to sit around the outfield fence as the main gate will be closed to the public.

We played clean baseball across the board. Everyone started mixing in curveballs this week and that played into some of the at-bats. It keeps the hitters guessing.’

Jeremy Burgener, PB White coach

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