Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
LINN — You’ve got to walk before you run, and the Linn baseball team needed no reminder of that Tuesday night.
The Wildcats’ 11 walks led to nine runs as they defeated Harrisburg 9-2 in a Class 2 sectional game.
“We strive on contact. That’s what we preach to each other,” Linn head coach Colby Nilges said. “But these kids, one through nine, they’re pretty patient, disciplined at the plate. I think tonight we saw a lot of that.”
Linn notched just two extra-base hits, doubles by juniors Ryan Mantle and Daulton Niederhelm, but the Wildcats (21-4) didn’t need much in the way of slugging.
“We’ve mixed it up well this year,” Nilges said. “We’ve hit the long ball, we’ve hit the gaps and we’ve blooped them places.”
After hitting a single his first at-bat, center fielder Cameron Laughlin walked his next four times at the plate. He scored three of Linn’s runs.
“(I’m) just trying to make the pitchers throw,” Laughlin said.
Senior Alec Shoop was the winning pitcher for the Wildcats. He threw eight strikeouts in his four innings, including a string of six straight after Harrisburg put two runners in scoring position in the first inning.
“He’s done that several times this year,” Nilges said. “He gets in a groove. That’s important for Alec to find that rhythm. And he definitely found it those two innings.”
Shoop’s only earned runs came in one swing of the bat when Harrisburg pitcher Charles Roller hit a two-run home run in the fourth. Shoop got out of the inning with two Bulldog runners on base and kept Linn ahead before moving to second base for the final three innings.
“That was big,” Nilges said. “Confidence could’ve dropped, and things could’ve got quite a bit tighter and nerve-racking. Cutting the lead in half, that’s pretty big. That’s a good response by the guys, don’t allow any more after that and shut the door.”
Shoop was replaced by junior Jacob Voss, who only allowed three hits in the final three innings.
“Our younger pitching coming in always is a plus,” Shoop said. “Past years, we haven’t had a whole lot of pitching. We’ve been like three or four pitchers. But this year, now we have three or four young pitchers that will be solid the next two years.”
Said Nilges of Voss: “It’s been a nice addition this year. We turned him loose earlier this season just to see what happened and I think he pitched a two-hit shutout his first time out.”
In addition to the 11 walks and two doubles, Linn hit eight singles. Catcher Kyle Nolting was hit by pitches in the fifth and sixth innings.
Roller was pulled after loading the bases with walks in the fourth. Seven of Linn’s runs were charged to him.
Linn hosts Canton at 5 p.m. today. The Tigers (16-1) advanced by defeating Elsberry 5-4 on Monday.
“We don’t really exactly know what we’re getting (with Canton), but we know that we’ve got go home … and we’ve got to be ready for (today),” Nilges said. “Because (today’s) going to be a little bit different.”
Alhough, the Wildcats hope for the same result: happy Linn players soaking their coach with the team water cooler.
“If we keep winning, that’s fine,” Nilges said. “They can keep dumping water.”