On a rare March day almost custom made for baseball, fans of Morrisonville and Litchfield were treated to an early season gem on Saturday, March 23. With both aces on the mound, the Panthers would use a four-run fourth inning to pick up their first win of the season, beating the Mohawks 5-3.
Both teams would face some challenges in the opening inning as each scored in the opening frame.
Litchfield leadoff man Clayton Walch would walk to start the game, but was erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jacob Frerichs. Frerichs would steal second and come around to score on a double by Billy Beckham to make it 1-0.
Beckham would move to third on a ground out by Nick Braasch and Jeremy Frazier walked to give the Panthers' runners on first and third, but Morrisonville starter Andrew Skinner got a ground ball to third for the third out.
Skinner would help his own cause in the bottom of the first inning as he led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a ground ball to Beckham, who got the start on the mound for the Panthers.
Beckham would get Evan Hopper on a liner to center field, but Morrisonville kept the inning alive as Dade Pitchford walked to put two men on.
With two out, Skinner would take third on a pitch in the dirt and would score Morrisonville’s first run when Jake Jurgena’s throw to third traveled into left field. Pitchford would move to second on the play, then to third after back-to-back walks by Sam Herman and Cole Sidwell loaded the bases.
Beckham avoided any more trouble as he got Dalton Thomas to ground into a fielder’s choice for the final out of the inning.
Both pitchers would settle down after the bumpy first, combining for two straight scoreless innings. Skinner would give up a pair of hits to Chase Hires and Jake Jurgena in the second, but retired the next five batters in order to keep Litchfield at one run. Beckham allowed a pair of hits, a single in the second to Skinner and a double in the third to Evan Hopper, but also kept the Mohawks from coming around to score.
The Panthers would finally get things going in the top of the fourth inning, thanks in part to three Morrisonville errors.
Blaine Stewart reached on an error, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hires. Drew Hartzell then singled to move Stewart to third base.
Trying to keep Hartzell close, Skinner threw wide of first on a pickoff attempt and first baseman Dalton Thomas was unable to snag the errant toss, allowing Stewart to score and Hartzell to move to second.
Jacob Jurgena would reach on an error to put runners at first and second before Skinner picked up a strikeout for out number two.
Jacob Frerichs would drive in Hartzell with a single to right field and both he and courtesy runner Caleb Jurgena would score on Beckham’s second double of the day one batter later.
Beckham would be left stranded at second with a ground out to short, but the Panthers now held a 5-1 lead after three and a half innings.
Morrisonville would get two of those runs back over the next three innings, starting with a solo tally in the fifth off reliever Jeremy Frazier. Skinner, who was relieved on the mound by Wyatt Spurgeon in the top of the fifth, picked up his third base hit of the game to lead off the bottom half of the inning. He would move to second on a ground ball to first, then to second on a single by Evan Hopper to left field.
Dade Pitchford would drive in Skinner on a laser to left field that Beckham made a fantastic diving catch on for out number two. Frazier would get out number three without further damage as Litchfield held a 5-2 lead after five innings.
Both teams would get runners on in the sixth, but neither would score, with Litchfield turning a nice double play to erase Morrisonville’s base runner.
Frazier would reach on an infield hit to start the seventh inning, but Spurgeon got the next three batters out to give the Mohawks a chance in the bottom of the seventh.
Kyle Bloome would lead off the final half inning with a single, with Austin Gwinn courtesy running for him. After a pop up to Frazier on the mound, Gwinn moved to second on a wild pitch and scored shortly after on a single to right field by Evan Hopper.
With two outs and one on, Frazier got the final out on a hard hit ball to center by Pitchford that Frerichs caught for the game’s final out.
Beckham would have three doubles in four at-bats for Litchfield, driving in three Panther runs. Both Hopper and Skinner had three hits for Morrisonville, with Hopper picking up an RBI.
Beckham got the win on the mound with one run allowed in four innings. He walked three, hit one batter, allowed three hits and struck out five batters in the win. Frazier would strike out one and give up four hits in his three inning relief appearance.
Skinner took the tough luck loss, with four unearned runs and one earned run in five innings. He struck out two, walked two and gave up six hits in the start. Spurgeon also pitched well, allowing three hits in three scoreless innings.
Litchfield, now 2-1 on the year, will host North Mac on Monday, March 25, followed by another home contest against Ramsey on Wednesday, March 27. Morrisonville, now 0-7 after their third loss by two or fewer runs, will be at Macon Meridian on Monday, followed by a home-and-home against Edinburg on Tuesday and Thursday, with Thursday the home game for the Mohawks.
March 23 at Morrisonville
Litchfield 100 400 0 5 9 1
Morrisonville 100 010 1 3 7 5
W-Beckham 4 1 0 3 5 4
Frazier 3 2 2 4 1 0
L-Skinner 4 5 1 6 2 2
Spurgeon 3 0 0 3 5 0
Multiple Hits: Litchfield - Billy Beckham (3-4, 3RBI); Morrisonville - Andrew Skinner (3-4, 2R), Evan Hopper (3-4, 1RBI). 2B: Litchfield - Billy Beckham 3; Morrisonville - Evan Hopper 1.
Records: Litchfield (1-2), Morrisonville (0-7).