Raiders comfortable with single life

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Southridge’s Chad O’Bryan fired a pitch Wednesday at League Stadium, where the Raiders picked up their first home victory of the season. Southridge dumped Northeast Dubois 9-3 as O’Bryan tossed a complete game, striking out four and allowing five hits. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

HUNTINGBURG — Southridge’s power numbers, well, they’re not sexy. And the Raiders know it.

When the Raiders engineer comfortable offense like they did Tuesday at League Stadium, though, who needs brawny bats? In erasing a two-run deficit in the first inning to waltz past Northeast Dubois 9-3, Southridge accumulated 12 hits. Just one went for extra bases, Cody Moesner’s shot that straddled the third-base line.

The Raiders are just fine with the single life, and playing station to station is more their speed.

“Small ball. We’ve got to play a lot of small ball,” said sophomore Connor Craig, the Raider leadoff hitter who singled twice and scored twice. “We don’t hit the deep ball, we’re just fast, we play smart, we run the bases well and bunt for hits, bunt to move (runners) over and all that.”

Excluding the Wood Memorial game, when the Raiders pelted seven extra-base hits in a 17-1 runaway, 45 of their 49 hits on the season have been singles.

There’s a few factors at work there. Naturally, League Stadium with its roomy outfield and 385-foot distance to dead center field, are where power numbers go to die. Craig added that it’s just the makeup of the Raiders’ hitters, too — they’re not built for power, more so for speed.

Tuesday, Moesner rapped three hits, Brett Nordhoff singled twice, scored twice and drove in the first run of the game, and Luke Stetter added two hits and scored a run. There was nothing cheap about the way the Raiders (3-3) reached base; well-stung liners accounted for seven of their dozen hits. And with their approach, they gained a fan in Jeep coach Brian Kirchoff.

“I’ve heard people call home runs rally-killers before. Teams late in the game when they’re wanting to put up big numbers to catch up, and somebody hits a big home run, then they don’t put any more baserunners on,” Kirchoff said. “Sometimes you’d rather have a gap hitter or a line-drive hitter up there and keep the bases moving. When there’s baserunners on, the defense is different, it just is. The way (Southridge) hit it tonight was impressive.”

The Raiders attacked early in counts, assumed a 6-2 lead after two innings and always gave the Jeeps something to think about; they added single runs in the third, fourth and sixth.

Kirchoff commended his relief hurler, Cameron Riecker, for minimizing damage in the four innings he tossed. And Southridge coach Brad Wibbeler remained just as complimentary of his team’s offensive mindset, even when the Raiders weren’t reaching base.

Craig

Craig scored the final Raider run of the second inning when Stetter advanced him from second to third on a grounder to the right side and Ben Weber suicide-squeezed him home. Weber also lifted a sacrifice fly to center, as did Chad O’Bryan.

“That was definitely the pleasing side of it, and that’s what the kids need to realize: When you put the ball in play, good things happen,” Wibbeler said. “There’s been times in the past where we’ve had too many strikeouts and haven’t been able to do that, but tonight definitely showed what can happen when you put the ball in play.”

Northeast Dubois had thrived with that in a four-game win streak that ended Tuesday; the Jeeps hammered out 49 runs in those victories. But Kirchoff said his team derived more value from seeing a pitcher like O’Bryan.

The Raider junior — a basketball player who shoots left-handed but pitches righty — allowed just one run and scattered five hits. Three came off the bat of Jace Terwiske, and Jacob Gress doubled and scored two runs. O’Bryan got the last word, striking out those two Jeeps to finish the seventh, his lone 1-2-3 inning of the night.

“To see pitching like that is what we’re going to see in the tournament. We’re not always going to see pitching that great, as we’re not always going to see pitching that we’ve been hitting pretty hard here lately,” said Kirchoff, who also expressed the need to tidy up “little nickel-and-dime stuff” that included four errors Tuesday.

“As long as we’ll pay attention and address these little mini-problems, it will make us better.”
Wibbeler had used O’Bryan’s arm judiciously through his first few outings of the season, but in going the distance in Tuesday’s 91-pitch effort, the wiry O’Bryan showed he can elevate his pitch count, Wibbeler said.

Bugged by early one-run setbacks to Evansville Reitz and Princeton, the Raiders see gradual indicators of progress. Moesner’s consistent hitting has earned him a promotion from sixth in the order to cleanup, and Wibbeler said Stetter has solidified the No. 2 hole.

Stetter’s duty includes protecting Craig when he gets on base. Bunting, sacrificing, advancing the runner — all things consistent with the smallball theme.

“We do have a lot of guys that we stress getting the bat on the ball with, and tonight it worked out. Last night (in a 12-1 loss to Evansville Memorial), it definitely didn’t,” Wibbeler said. “We had our opportunities to win those one-run games. Other than last night’s game, (we’ve) played solid baseball in all of our games.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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