One look at the Washington High School baseball team’s unquestioned leader, 5-5 senior Jordan Allen, should be enough to determine how the Prexies want to play.
Hint: It doesn’t involve hitting home runs.
“We play small ball, and it works,” Wash High coach Rocky Plassio said. “It keeps pressure on opponents.”
The Prexies’ cranked up the bunts and steals and eventually broke McGuffey with a six-run sixth inning en route to a 9-1 victory in a non-section game Wednesday at Consol Energy Park.
And it didn’t take long for Washington to begin pressing the issue.
Allen slapped a single up the middle to lead off the top of the first, Jonathan Spina moved him over with a sacrifice bunt, and Allen later scored on Jordan Mooney’s fielder’s choice, sliding into home safely as the throw bounced away from McGuffey catcher Matt Alexas.
In the sixth, Wash High scored six runs with just one ball – an RBI-single to right field from Jaylin Kelly – leaving the infield.
“You take ‘em any way you can get ‘em,” Plassio said. “However it works, it works.”
Allen and Guy Markley threw three scoreless innings each to help Washington improve to 2-0 ahead of games the next two days at Brownsville and at Shady Side Academy.
“Our team is very confident,” said Allen, who was one for three with an RBI and two runs scored. “We do all the right things and make a lot of plays.”
McGuffey, meanwhile, struggled to make a few routine plays, especially in the sixth inning.
The Highlanders made four errors overall, two in the pivotal sixth. After Jesse Spara and Chris Gouin (two hits) led off with singles, a throwing error charged to reliever Brent Blacharczyk on a sacrifice bunt loaded the bases.
Allen then took a fastball to the helmet, and a throwing error on McGuffey second baseman Jake Seabright led to two more runs. Mooney’s infield single scored one before Kelly singled to right. Lincoln Key drew a walk for the Prexies’ sixth run.
“One thing we’ve struggled with is having the one bad inning,” McGuffey coach Tim Kamnikar said. “We have to avoid the one bad inning and make the routine plays. If we do that, we’re in the game, and we have to string together some hits.”
The Highlanders did get two hits apiece from center fielder Chris Keith and right fielder Preston Semple, with Semple scoring the team’s only run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh.
Keith made a sliding catch to rob Key to end the fifth, a fabulous defensive play upstaged only by McGuffey shortstop Andy Crawford ranging to his right and throwing out Spara one inning prior.
Allen and Markley combined to allow five hits and a walk while striking out five. Markley retired eight straight before he was removed in favor of Gouin, with the hope that he and Allen are fresh for Brownsville and Shady Side Academy.
But as good as the Prexies’ pitching was, no question this game was a testament to the team’s aggressive approach: draw walks, two sacrifices, advancing on passed balls and wild pitches (twice more) and eventually forcing the other team into mistakes.
“You have to put it in perspective: They’re high school kids,” Plassio said. “They still have to make the plays. We have enough kids who understand giving themselves up for the good of the team, and they just want to win.”