Wolf tosses three-hitter as Russellville downs Harrisburg

HARRISBURG — It wasn’t your prototypical three-hitter, but Chandler Wolf was still dominant.

The senior right-hander worked around three hit batters and five walks in a commanding 10-strikeout performance that propelled the Russellville Indians to a 5-2 win against the Harrisburg Bulldogs in a Class 2 sectional contest.

In what’s becoming a common occurrence, the hurler surpassed the century mark in pitches to get the victory. After a 120-pitch effort in the district title game last week, Wolf needed just 117 to turn back Harrisburg.

“Coach (Lucas Branson) knows if I go out there, I’m going to stay out there,” he said. “Whether we’re losing or we’re winning, I’m going to throw 300 pitches if I have to. I’ll throw however many I have to to keep the team going.”

Wolf gave up just three singles in the contest, and one of them was an infield dribbler.

“He’s playing about as well as he possibly can right now,” Branson said. “He’s pitched the last two ball games for us and has thrown complete games, plus he’s leading us offensively. That’s what seniors should do.”

The Indians needed him to do that, as Harrisburg hurler Ethan Beringer countered by twirling a five-hitter and striking out six.

However, he walked five and the Bulldogs committed an error in six of their seven innings in the field, so it was a game where there were constantly runners on the basepaths. In fact, there wasn’t a single 1-2-3 inning during the contest for either side, and the teams combined to strand 19 runners.

“I didn’t know (I threw) a three-hitter, because it seemed like there was so much going on,” Wolf said. “Just going out there and trying to get in a groove is my biggest thing, and I wasn’t very comfortable out there on the mound.”

Harrisburg got the game’s first run in the bottom of the first thanks to a walk, a sacrifice, a hit and an error.

But Russellville responded in its next at-bat, pushing across two in the top of the second when Clayton Thompson’s two-run single brought home Kaleb Libbert and Caleb Harrison.

The Bulldogs then tied it at 2 in the bottom of that frame when a hit batter later scored on the aforementioned infield single. But Wolf found another gear, getting the final out via strikeout with the bases loaded.

The Indians then took control with single runs in the next three innings.

In the third, it was an RBI single by Nick Haslag that plated Wolf. In the fourth, Wolf ripped a ball the Harrisburg left fielder had a glove on that would have been the third out, but he dropped it and Tanner Morrow scored. And in the fifth, Harrison rapped a single to left field to score Haslag.

The contributions of Haslag (the No. 6 batter), Harrison (No. 8) and Thompson (No. 9) were huge, as the rest of the lineup combined to go just 1-for-18. Harrison had two hits and one RBI, Thompson had one hit and two RBI and Haslag had one hit and one RBI

“That’s the biggest thing we’ve talked about all year, getting that bottom of the lineup going,” Branson said. “Whoever that is in those 7-8-9 spots needs to turn the lineup over for our top guys.”

While the Indians (16-7) had just those five hits, they had several well-hit balls that helped force the Bulldogs (13-6) into their six errors.

“I think that was the biggest difference,” Branson said. “A lot of the balls they hit were routine plays for us, whereas a lot of the balls we hit were more crisply hit and they had to rush their throws or were fielding on their heels a little bit.”

The game was a matchup of unranked teams, although Russellville was among those receiving votes in the most recent state poll. The Indians now advance to face another unranked foe, as they’ll play today at Canton (13-5). A game time had not been announced at press time.

“Everybody’s ready to go, kind of running on adrenaline right now,” Wolf said. “We’ll go to school (today) and hit for an hour and then get ready to go, so hopefully everybody’s rested.”

Branson said this odd spring, full of postponements and cancellations due to weather, has prepared the Indians for a quick turnaround.

“We’ll go wherever they tell us to go play, no problem,” he said. “We’ve dealt with weather from Day 1 this spring, so we’re used to schedule changes and bus trips. We’ll get home and get some rest and get ready to go in the morning.”

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