Raiders wheel and deal into weekend

Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald
Southridge’s Jacob Brewer delivered a pitch during Friday’s game in Huntingburg, where the Raiders topped Forest Park 4-2 behind Brewer’s complete game effort, which came equipped with 12 strikeouts. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

HUNTINGBURG — It’s Friday night, Jacob Brewer has stuff to do.

The Southridge junior had a long week. Plus, he’s says he’s got a hot date. He’s going out to eat later with some friends.

Well, if he’s looking for some extra points, he can tell his “friends” about his pitching performance against county neighbor Forest Park in a Pocket Athletic Conference showdown at League Stadium. That’s probably a good place to start.

Southridge coach Dave Schank compared him to a flame-throwing Hall of Famer. Teammate Chad Meyer said it was “pretty dirty.” Brewer categorized it as “surreal.”

Whatever it was, it got Brewer and the Raiders out of League Stadium in a hurry, as the junior delivered an unconscious pitching effort in a 4-2 win over the Rangers, adding an exclamation mark to his second start of the season.

“He commanded,” Schank said. “He came out and he was Nolan Ryan. ‘Here it is. I can throw it hard enough that you can’t hit it.’”

The Raider junior allowed two runs on six hits and hung up 12 K’s without yielding an extra-base hit over seven innings. Brewer struck out five of the first seven batters he faced and allowed only two hits outside of a four-hit barrage from the Rangers in the fifth frame. He claimed he wasn’t thinking about his weekend plans. In fact, he said he wasn’t thinking about anything at all.

“Once you start pitching, once you’re doing that well; you just don’t think about anything other than what’s actually going on,” Brewer said. “All the friends, all the family in the stadium, just can’t beat it.”

In the longest start by a Raider pitcher this season, Brewer kept the Ranger batters off-balance as he got ahead 0-2 or 1-2 in counts 12 times during the ballgame. Those leads allowed him to dust batters with a deadeye curveball that Meyer said he’s perfectly fine with just watching from his perch at first base.

“I’ve caught him a couple times in the bullpen,” Meyer said. “It’s hard to catch. ... He made a couple of those kids look silly up there.”

Brewer’s chief contribution this season could be at the plate, where he’s pounded four doubles. But his addition to an already hearty pitching rotation brings some extra flexibility for Schank as he tries to balance a sometimes loaded game schedule between the must-win conference and rivalry games and the other contests. Brewer joins a group of up to seven guys that Schank said he can rely on in big-game situations. And, as Brewer pointed out, everyone brings their specific niche to the table.

“We’ve got six or seven quality guys that makes it way more difficult,” Brewer said about the Raider pitching staff. “You’ve got many different pitches. Logan (Sollman has) got a knuckleball. Payton (Mattingly has) got a sick changeup, Luke (Stetter has) everything. Chad (O’Bryan) is 6-foot-8; he’s got a completely different angle. It just makes it more difficult to prepare for us.”

But on Friday, with Southridge (8-2, 3-0) looking to stay undefeated in conference play, and the Raiders playing their fifth game in five days, Schank tagged Brewer and gave him the heads up beforehand that it might be Brewer or bust.

“He’s one of those kids that plays baseball year round so he’s in shape. His arm’s in shape. He’s a horse — a big strong kid, so I told him before the game, ‘Our pitching is pretty slim, our fifth game in five days, I’d really like to go with you and if you’re effective and you’re not sore, I’m going to ride you like a pack mule.’ And he said, ‘I’ll go seven. I’m good.’”

That was bad news for Forest Park (2-6, 0-2). The Rangers were caught looking on six strikeouts thanks to a mixture, by Ranger coach Jarred Howard’s assessment, of Brewer’s skill and a generous outside corner given by the home-plate umpire.

“We needed to make an adjustment earlier than (the fifth inning), but (Brewer) was a good pitcher and he did a good job,” Howard said.

Forest Park threatened for the first time when they loaded the bases with three consecutive singles from Damon Wilmes (3-for-3), Ben Wendholt and Bryce Bettag. Brewer struck out the next two batters swinging, but Cody Tempel put the Rangers on the board with a two-run single to shallow center that cut the Raider lead to 3-2. Brewer then caught the next batter looking to escape the inning.

And while the offensive production came short, Howard was at least encouraged by his team’s pluck and resilience after the Rangers stumbled 6-5 against Boonville on Thursday night. Against the Pioneers, Howard minced no words about the team’s effort. A day later, he felt the squad responded to his “last warning.”

“Tonight I felt like we had a little more enthusiasm and desire to play than we did last night and I told our guys, ‘It’s Friday night, the sun is shining, why wouldn’t you have a good time?’” Howard said. “And our guys, they’ve got to show up and play and once we get that part of it, we’ll start making some plays. So I was proud of that part of it. I was proud of how our guys battled.”

Southridge added an insurance run in the sixth after a sacrifice fly from Andrew Recker scored Nolan O’Brien (two runs scored), who entered as a courtesy runner for Brett Nordhoff. Brewer ended any hopes of a Ranger rally when he forced Tempel into a groundout at second in the top of the seventh.

Southridge travels to Dubois for a makeup game against Northeast Dubois (4-4) this afternoon at 4:30, but Friday added a little more confidence to a team that’s filled to the brim with it.

“I feel like I can just go and throw any pitch in any count because of my defense,” Brewer said. “We’ll have a couple picks. We’ll have diving catches. I feel like I can do anything on the mound because of my teammates behind me and how confident they make me.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli

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