Baseball is one of the ultimate team sports. Anyone who knows the game or has played it can you tell you that baseball is all about “picking up your teammate.”
It is a bit unfair then to single out one player when production from everybody is critical. However, in this case, Coventry should thank junior starting pitcher Jake Mazak for his superb outing in the Comets home playoff victory over Norton 5-3 Tuesday.
Mazak (5-0) went the distance for the Comets by pitching a complete game six-hitter with five strikeouts and three walks.
To compare, Norton had to use three different pitchers in six innings.
“I’m telling you, the last three games (Mazak) pitched, his breaking pitch has been fantastic,” Coventry head coach Wilmur Caraballo said. “He works ahead of the hitters and his just doesn’t walk many players.”
Multiple times late in the game Mazak was able to turn the tide by getting out of jams to shut the door on any chances Norton had of winning the game.
For example, in the fifth and seventh inning he was able to produce inning-ending strikeouts with Panthers in scoring position and the tying or winning run at the plate.
“It was very big to get out of that (fifth inning) jam with them not scoring any runs,” Mazak said. “That was probably one of the biggest turning points because they had a lot of momentum going.”
Of course, Mazak was not the only factor in producing victory. The offense also provided a spark from the get-go by running through the lineup in the first inning.
In the bottom half of the first, the Comets tallied three runs off of Norton senior starter Jordan Corps off the strength of a ground-rule double and an error by Panthers junior shortstop Cody Murphy.
After walking two of the first three hitters, Corps delivered a first-pitch fastball to senior clean-up hitter Tyler Radcliff that took off like a rocket over the Panthers right fielder Aaron Van Burskirk’s head.
The ball rolled under the fence, however, and only one run crossed the plate.
It didn’t matter, though, because Mazak, the next hitter, slapped a sharp ground ball to shortstop that Murphy botched, allowing two more runs to score.
Despite loading the bases off two hit batters, the Comets would not score again. The damage had already been done as Coventry was off an all-important quick start.
“It was very important (to have the quick start) because it takes pressure off the pitcher, pressure off the coaches and the whole team,” Caraballo said. “It is good to jump ahead, it’s very important, especially in the playoffs.”
Early on, it appeared the Comets were going to run away with this game.
Page 2 of 2 - The Comets had a chance to blow the game wide open in the bottom of the third inning when they loaded the bases with only one out.
Already scoring a run off another ground-rule double, this time by senior Tyler Needham, the Comets again loaded the bases, but again left them loaded.
Norton didn’t do much of anything in the first few innings, not having a runner reach second base until the fourth inning.
After getting only one hit in the first three innings, Norton came alive in the fourth with three hits and scored two runs off a double from freshman second baseman Anthony Duncan to cut the deficit in half.
The Panthers had chances to seize the lead after that fourth inning rally, but each time they failed to produce as they would score only more run.
Looking ahead, the Comets believe aggressiveness at the plate is crucial. If they can produce with the bats and be aggressive like they did Thursday then they will continue to win games.
“I think one of the things we struggle with the most is swinging the bat,” Caraballo said. “I think we take too many pitches, we need to be a little more aggressive and if we can score five or six runs we should be okay.”