On days where offense is at a premium, good pitching and defense are a must.
The Jefferson City Jays paired that with a little small ball Saturday afternoon to come away with a 4-1 victory in the fifth-place game of the Jays Baseball Classic against the Gateway Legacy Lions at Jefferson City High School.
“Some days when you are not swinging it as well, you have to try to manufacture runs the best you can,” Jefferson City coach Kyle Lasley said. “Today it was about stealing some bases, doing some hit-and-running, bunt here and there and making them play defense. It was good to see that we can do that and add that to our arsenal.”
On the other side, Zac Arnold, Luke Bauridl and Ethan Lipp combined to allow just one run on the mound for the Jays on five hits.
But most importantly, Jefferson City allowed zero walks in the contest while the three pitchers combined to throw 56 strikes out of 80 pitches.
“That was really good,” Lasley said. “The first thing I said in the huddle was, ‘When you get ahead of batters, throw strikes, you’re able to throw you’re second and third pitch a little more.’”
The Jays put pressure on the Lions’ defense early in the contest, as Arnold grounded a ball to the right side of the infield and through the second baseman’s legs to allow Jordan Martin to score from second -- who reached on a two-out hit by pitch and stole second base earlier in the at-bat.
And it continued in the second after Mason Wall and Ryan Meyer drew back-to-back one-out walks. Lipp loaded the bases as the next batter with a bunt single and Tripp Maassen plated courtesy runner Drew Heller from third base with another bunt single.
Jefferson City added another run two batters later when Arnold drew a bases-loaded walk to move ahead 3-0.
“It goes back and puts the pressure back on the other team,” Lasley said. “With pitching and defense working together, I felt pretty confident that if we scored that four to five runs that we would have a pretty good chance to win the game.”
Gateway got on the board in the top of the third, as its first baserunner of the contest came on a one-out double to shallow left field by Denny Almonte before No. 9 hitter Jeremy Cova plated him with a single to left.
The score remained 3-1 until the bottom of the fifth, as Brody Johns reached with a two-out walk, was moved up to second on a balk and scored on a bloop single to right field by Wall.
That sent the Jays to their bullpen for the sixth and seventh innings, ending Arnold’s day on the mound at five innings with one run allowed on three hits with two strikeouts. Arnold threw 37 of his 57 pitches for strikes.
“He has a different mentality when he steps up on that mound,” Lasley said. “… He’s going to give us his best stuff day in and day out.”
Bauridl worked around a pair of one-out hits in the sixth to keep the lead at three runs, and Lipp was about as efficient as it comes in the seventh -- getting two outs on his first two pitches before striking out the final batter on five pitches.
Jefferson City (9-4) drew nine walks in the contest, as Arnold led the way with two while seven of the other eight starters each received a free pass.
Gateway (5-4) was led by Almonte’s 2-for-3 day at the plate with a run scored.
The Jays will look to keep the momentum rolling at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday when they host the Battle Spartans in a Central Missouri Activities Conference contest.