He’s got another high-quality squad this season as the Comets are 12-3 overall and sit atop the Greater Miami Conference with a 9-1 mark. Lakota West (7-3) and Lakota East (5-3) are currently leading the rest of the pack.
Ohio State University commit Will Pfennig and Kenyon Abbott combined on a four-hitter with 14 strikeouts against Hamilton, which slipped to 5-5, 5-4, with its third straight loss.
“They’ve got Division I guys all over the place,” Big Blue coach Joey Lewis said. “You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game when you play a team with the players and quality of play that Mason brings. That’s just the way it is in this league.”
HHS got a quality mound performance from senior Zach Bell, who rebounded from a humbling start to throw a six-hitter.
Bell trailed 4-0 after one inning and 3-0 after three batters. The right-hander was greeted by singles from Joe Powell and Nick Northcut, and J.P. Sponseller followed with a three-run homer over the right-field fence.
“J.P. put a great swing on that fastball inside,” Bell said. “I even hit my spot, and he just turned on it. I think the main thing as a pitcher is to keep your composure because once you start getting in your own head, that’s when you start losing control over what you know how to control. I just had to shake it off and let it go.”
Bell struck out six, walked one and allowed three earned runs.
“I feel like I was hitting my spots, especially on the inside of the plate, with my fastball,” Bell said. “I was also able to get my slider over the plate really well today.”
The Hamilton offense needed a big hit to break through against the Comets and couldn’t come up with it. Big Blue stranded at least one runner every inning and 10 overall.
“We couldn’t string enough good at-bats together to get anything across,” Lewis said. “My philosophy is that it kind of handcuffs you as a coach offensively when you fall behind like that. You don’t really want to start sacrificing guys over and giving outs away.”
Kurtis Reid was 2-for-4 with a triple for HHS, and Payton Pennington and Bell added a single apiece.
Pfennig pitched the first six innings, struck out 12 and walked three. Abbott worked the final frame and had to escape a bases-loaded jam to complete the shutout.
“Hamilton’s a gritty club, and we knew we had to come out ready to play,” Bly said. “When you’ve got Will on the mound, you know you’re going to have a great chance to win. He wasn’t his normal dominating self, but he’s been sick for (several) days. I was really proud of him because he gritted that out. You could tell he didn’t have the zip on his fastball he normally has, but he found a way with the breaking ball.”
“I think he was at 98 pitches after six innings. There was just no reason to send him out in the seventh, and we have confidence in Kenyon.”
Pfennig, a right-hander, has 48 strikeouts in 24 innings this spring, and his earned run average is 0.29. Northcut was 2-for-2 with a double and Mason Holloway drove in a run for Mason.
Pfennig, Northcut (Vanderbilt), Sponseller (Elon), Powell (Cincinnati) and Kadeen Beermann (Heidelberg) are the Comets’ college commits. Bly said there are several highly regarded younger players on the roster as well.
Mason will host Fairfield on Wednesday, while Big Blue will be on the road to face Princeton. Bell said HHS has a cohesive squad that can still make this a successful season.
“I feel like we could be better than our record indicates,” Lewis said. “I feel like we’re making progress, and we could make some noise in the last couple weeks of the regular season. I’m excited to see what we have left.”
WP — Will Pfennig (4-0); LP — Zach Bell (1-2); HR — M: J.P. Sponseller. Records: H 5-5, 5-4 GMC; M 12-3, 9-1 GMC