Trojans stun Pleasant Grove with near no-hitter from Ales
By Justin Heinzer
Starting pitcher Austin Ales threw a two-hit gem for Oak Ridge, humbling the previously undefeated Eagles 6-0 in Monday’s Delta River League varsity baseball matchup.
Ales breezed through the first six innings, facing the minimum number of Eagle batters without yielding a single hit (a double-play in the second erased a runner who reached first on a hit-by-pitch). Entering the seventh with a 6-0 lead, Ales needed just three more outs against the top of the Pleasant Grove lineup to cap a signature performance.
“I just tried to get ahead and I was able to spot up my pitches well. This was a big game for us.” Ales said.
After retiring the first batter on a breaking ball in the dirt, Eagle hitter Josh Adams finally broke up the no-hitter with an “excuse-me” blooper over the pitcher’s mound, sending the Oak Ridge infield scrambling to no avail.
Ales smiled, took the ball back and retired the next two out of three batters, putting a final exclamation point on the game with a defensive highlight of his own to send the bewildered Pleasant Grove team packing.
Ales finished the game striking out six, issuing zero walks and allowing just two hits in seven strong innings.
“That was a phenomenal outing for Austin,” Oak Ridge coach Todd Melton said of his starter.
Eagle starting pitcher Zach Stilwell started the game strong, going pitch for pitch with Ales in the early going until running into a heap of trouble in the fourth, largely due to a pair of fielding errors from the Eagle infield.
Troy got its offense rolling in the fourth with a one-out triple off the bat of first basemen Zach Mahon that nearly achieved home-run distance. Shortstop Jake Wehr provided the first run of the game by shooting a low line drive past the second baseme, and left-fielder Lance Berrenger kept the rally going with a towering double over the center-fielder to move Wehr over to third. Berrenger also tripled in the second inning to nearly the same spot.
Ales helped out his own cause with an RBI squeeze bunt which was eventually thrown into right field errantly, allowing Berrenger to waltz home. Following another fielding error, coupled with a balk and a wild pitch that negated a swinging strike-three call, the Trojans ended the bizarre inning with a five-run advantage. With the way Ales was pitching, it appeared all but over for the league-leading Eagles.
“This game is a huge turning point for us. It gives us a lot of confidence — you can see it,” Melton said.
Berrenger finished the game 2-for-2 to go with a token of respect from the Pleasant Grove coaching staff, who awarded him first base twice on intentional walks. Mahon tripled and Wehr had an RBI single.
If the Trojans, who are now 3-2 in the league standings, continue to make noise this season, this game can be counted as one of their cornerstone victories.
Currently sitting third in league, Oak Ridge will try to get even with Sheldon Tuesday after suffering an 8-5 loss in their first contest.
Note: In the season opener against Del Campo, Ales recorded eight hitless innings but didn’t get the decision in a game that Oak Ridge eventually won.