FREDERICKSBURG – They say that early in the spring – especially in cold and blustery conditions – that pitching is ahead of hitting. Yesterday, Cedar Crest’s Connor Bawiec was definitely ahead of the Northern Lebanon hitters.
Making his second start of the spring against a club which was making its season debut, Bawiec twirled a on-hitter to propel the Falcons to a 2-0 baseball victory over the Vikings, Wednesday afternoon at NLHS. The junior righthander was dominant throughout his compete-game effort, allowing but a single runner to reach scoring position.
For the most part, the Cedar Crest defense was steady behind Bawiec. Meanwhile offensively, the Falcons plated single runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
The non-league win was the second of the spring, against a lone setback, for the Falcons. The Vikings’ initial game out of the chute came on the heels of a 14-8 campaign in 2012.
“It was another solid outing by Connor,” said Cedar Crest rookie head coach Ryan White of his ace’s second triumph of the year. “He got ahead of hitters and he didn’t waste pitches. And he had good defense behind him.”
“We pretty much practiced hard during the week and got better,” said Bawiec, referring to a disappointing loss to Palmyra on Saturday. “We played hard. That’s all we can do.”
“He threw nice,” said Northern Lebanon skipper Daryl Hess of Bawiec. “The biggest thing was that he kept us off-balance. I think that (seeing game-pitching for the first time) had a little to do with it. It’s early, but we’ve been out. I think mostly it was him doing a nice job.”
Bawiec, whose pitch count was in the mid 70s, struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. He retired the Vikings in order four times, including the fifth when he struck out the side.
In the bottom of the sixth, Northern Lebanon got a runner to second with two outs, courtesy of a two-base throwing error. But Baweiec got Viking clean-up man Drew Bene to pop out to end the threat.
It was Bene who had stroked the lone hit off Baweiec, a ringing single up the middle in the fourth.
“He was right around where we wanted him to be,” said White of Bawiec’s pitch count. “I thought he was solid throughout, from beginning to end. He kept them off balance. I thought he was spotting well.”
“I felt good on the mound,” said Bawiec. “I had good defense behind me. That’s all a pitcher can ask.
“The main thing as a pitcher is to get ahead,” Bawiec continued. “And battle back if you need to. My knuckleball, fastball and change-up were all working. When I want to get batters looking at something different, I’ll throw my knuckleball,”
“I just told my guys that we hit balls hard that were unlucky,” said Hess. “They (the Falcons) took advantage of the balls they hit. That’s the difference between losing 2-0 and winning 3-2.
“We were patient when we needed to be,” Hess added. “When you have a kid who’s around the plate, you don’t want to get into a hole. We hit some hard balls, and it’s early.But I was pleased with the way we approached the plate.”
After Northern Lebanon starter Ian Whitman had matched Bawiec pitch for pitch through four frames, the Falcons broke through against Viking reliever Jordan Nichols in the fifth.
With two outs, Nick Gonzalez got the Falcons going with a single, then stole second. Crest three-hole hitter Garrett Getz delivered Gonzalez with a single.
“I thought our guys were resilient,” said White. “Ian Whitman threw a real nice game, and those guys (Whtiman and Baweiec) were battling back and forth. But Garrett Getz and Mike Wealand had some nice RBIs.
“When you lose, you’re not as bad as reflected,” added White. “And when you win, you’re not as good as reflected. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes. It showed we’re even-keeled.”
“We had a pitch count on Ian and he got around 70 (pitches),” said Hess. “He still looked strong, that’s one thing I liked. That’s (pitch count) the one thing we try to keep to. Now we have him ready. Now he’s going to go to 90 or a hundred.
“I thought it was a real good game,” added Hess. “Both teams made the plays.”
Cedar Crest added to its lead in the top of the seventh. Gavin Smith led off with a walk, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Wealand’s triple down the right-field line.
“I like the aggressiveness we’ve shown the last couple of games,” said White. “Sometimes we can understand a situation better. We try to talk about each at-bat, and ask them (his players) what they thinking and tell them what we were thinking.
“I told Coach Hess I wish Whitman could’ve gone longer,” White added. “He did a real nice job of keeping us off balance. I think it would’ve been different if he would’ve been able to stay in.”
“We have a lot of new kids at a lot of new places,” said Hess. “I think we learned some things today. But we knew what Ian could do.
“I thought they (the Falcons) did a nice job making the plays,” added Hess. “They played good defense, and I thought we hit the ball hard. We were lucky to get out of some jams. I saw some nice things out of them, especially with Connor on the mound.”
Before exiting, Whitman did not surrender a run, allowed three hits, struck out six and walked two.
“We have Reading tomorrow (Thursday),” said White. “It’s a big one. They’re just as talented as we are. This win today means nothing if we don’t win tomorrow.”
“We always strive to do the best we can in the section,” said Hess. “Our section is going to be tough this year. There’s some teams with some good players back.
“I told the kids after the game, ‘I don’t like to lose, but there’s going to be times when a team goes out and they’re going to be better than you,'” Hess continued. “I’d be a lot more upset if we didn’t play well. We played a good team. They’re a good team. I’m not disappointed. I thought we played well against a good team.”