Hennessy hurls Jays past Bulldogs

Jays shortstop Gabe Marcantonio slaps the tag on Cory Hanger of South Callaway for an out at second base during the sixth inning of Thursday’s game at Mokane.

Jays shortstop Gabe Marcantonio slaps the tag on Cory Hanger of South Callaway for an out at second base during the sixth inning of Thursday’s game at Mokane. Photo by News Tribune.

MOKANE, Mo. — Jefferson City pitcher Travis Hennessy spent this week of practice working to develop a more consistent changeup.

He did that and more Thursday night.

Hennessy pitched a two-hit shutout as the Jays downed South Callaway 6-0.

The sophomore, who was staked to a 3-0 lead before he ever took the mound, gave up two singles and faced just two batters more than the minimum.

“My changeup has been iffy throughout the season,” Hennessy said. “And I finally gained control of it and started throwing it where I needed it to get thrown.”

He kept the ball low and did the most important thing a young pitcher can do: throw strikes.

Hennessy struck out four and didn’t reach a three-ball count until a seventh-inning walk. He walked just one.

“Now he’s learning (he) doesn’t have to strike everybody out,” Jefferson City head coach Brian Ash said. “Get some quick innings and save his arm to where he’s going to be stronger. I was very happy with how he had command of his secondary pitches, especially his changeup.”

South Callaway, the defending Class 2 state champions, managed a pair of singles from Cory Hanger, one in the fourth and one in the sixth. After that fourth-inning hit, Hanger reached third, but was left stranded.

The Bulldogs put two runners on in the seventh with a walk and a hit batter. But a double play ended the game, as South Callaway had just four baserunners in the game.

“He was keeping the ball nice and low,” South Callaway coach Jared Wood said. “We had trouble elevating the ball against him. He did well. You just tip your cap to him and say, ‘Good job.’”

Dylan Brauner led off the game with a double. He was still at second with two outs when three straight hits from Brenden Ogletree, Gabe Marcantonio and Sam Atkinson made the score 3-0.

With the way Hennessy pitched, that was all the offense the Jays needed.

“Early on in the season in the first half, we always had to come back,” Ash said. “Lately now, we’ve been able to score early and basically keep the lead without relinquishing it and finish it off at the end.”

The Jays added two insurance runs in the fifth. Alex Johnson led off the inning with a single. He came around to score on an RBI single by Corey Beard. Beard later scored on a sacrifice fly by Hayden Strobel.

Marcantonio doubled to lead off the sixth and came around to score on an error to make it 6-0.

Kemper Smith took the loss for the Bulldogs. He allowed six runs (four earned) in six innings. He settled down after the first before running into some more trouble in the fifth.

“I think all the kids were a little intimidated, a big (Class) 5 school rolling in,” Wood said. “With only having nine games in and we have played one game in two weeks, the butterflies were there definitely. After that first inning where we saw we can compete, pitching-wise and defensively, I think we turned it around.”

Brauner and Marcantonio had two hits each as the Jays finished with eight. Atkinson had two RBI.

Ash was pleased with the win, as Hennessy’s work in practice translated to game action.

“We worked it to death this week and it was nice to come out and actually have him carry it over,” Ash said. “And actually he looked great. His arm action, his arm speed looked the same as his fastball.”

The Jays (17-3) play again Monday at Lebanon. South Callaway (8-2) plays today and Saturday in the Orchard Farm Tournament.

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