CUYAHOGA FALLS: A program that produces a seemingly endless supply of quality high school pitchers might have found yet another.
Walsh Jesuit’s Joe Mockbee allowed just one unearned run in almost six innings and his teammates cashed in early scoring opportunities to lead the Warriors to a 4-1 victory over visiting St. Vincent-St. Mary on a gray, drizzly Saturday afternoon.
Mockbee, a slender 6-foot-2 junior left-hander, has wins in both of his starts this season. After getting his feet wet with the varsity last year, he might now be ready to contribute to another loaded Warriors team.
“Joe threw a great game for us,” said Walsh coach Chris Kaczmar. “He’s really thrown consistently well throughout the start of the whole year here. He’s throwing strikes, he let his defense work and he was in control throughout the game.”
Mockbee allowed four hits in 5⅔ innings with five strikeouts. He didn’t walk a batter until the sixth, when he needed relief help from staff ace Michael Marsinek, who induced a groundout to strand a pair of St. V-M runners and preserve a 3-1 lead.
“Joe had good control of his curveball but I think his ability to spot his fastball was exceptional today,” said Kaczmar. “He has recently added some nice velocity so we’re real excited about him.”
Confidence in his catcher has contributed to his early success, according to Mockbee.
“I just rely on my catcher,” said Mockbee. “I feel I can throw fastball, offspeed, every pitch in any count because I just have a lot of trust in Cassidy Brown behind the plate and his ability to block.”
Walsh, Division II state champion in 2006 and 2008 and runner-up the next two years, has established a tradition he hopes he can live up to.
“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure,” said Mockbee. “But I just want to do good for the team and give my all every outing I have because I don’t want to let my teammates down and my teammates believe in me.”
Two runs by Walsh (9-1) in the second inning and one more in the third provided a nice cushion, too.
Singles by Zack Leonatti and Drew Miletti, followed by Anthony Nemer’s bunt single loaded the bases with none out. A wild pitch scored one run and, one out later, Mockbee’s groundout to short scored another.
Graeme Frye’s infield hit and a bunt single by Nathanael Romans along with a throwing error, put runners on second and third to start the third. One out later, Leonatti’s grounder to third scored Frye for a 3-0 lead.
It started to rain in the top of the third. It took the form of intermittent sprinkles for the rest of the game, although it didn’t appear to adversely affect the quality of play.
St. V-M (7-3-1) managed to remain within striking distance, thanks to damage control by senior right-hander Ryan Gaffney, who took his first loss while pitching a complete game.
“We didn’t put him in the greatest position defensively,” said Fighting Irish coach Anthony Boarman, who lamented his team’s fielding lapses. “I felt Ryan did a good job today. He lived down in the zone. He really challenged hitters. And the four runs they got, they weren’t easy for them.”
Still, the Irish fought back. Zac George led off the fifth with a single and Gavin Wilcox reached on an error. Mockbee struck out the next two, but pinch-hitter Clayton Uecker singled to left on a 2-2 count to score George to make it 3-1.
George, the St. V-M catcher, also picked off a runner at third to save a possible run in the fifth.
The Warriors added a run in their half of the sixth on a leadoff double by Miletti, a passed ball and bunt single by Kyle Holdsworth.
Brown, the Walsh catcher, took the mound in the seventh and retired three in a row to earn his fifth save.
“I was proud of our guys for making it tough but we’re better than that,” said Boarman. “I want to see us progress a little further, because I feel we can better than what we showed today.”
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