Lee locking down foes

SHERIDAN – Senior Benton Panther left-hander Coulton Lee gave up one hit and struck out 13 Sheridan Yellowjackets in a complete-game 5-0 win in 7A/6A South conference play on Tuesday night in Sheridan. In 28.2 innings this season, Lee (5-0) has yet to give up a run this season. He has given up just 10 hits over that span and struck out 46 for an 11.2 strikeout per 7-inning ratio.
“His pitch count was up tonight because he struck out too many people,” Benton Coach Mark Balisterri said. “I hate to say that, but he struck out 13 people. He was throwing good enough where he could have got out with 80 pitches in seven innings, but with kids swinging and missing, he was having to throw an extra pitch. He did a phenomenal job.”
Leading 2-0 going into the top of the seventh inning, the Panthers (9-2, 3-0 South) started the inning with a Justin Vincent triple to right field, who scored on senior Carson Holloway’s single, which proved to be the only earned run in the game.
“We didn’t do a whole lot offensively,” Balisterri said. “We had seven hits, but we scattered them out. Realistically, we should have won the game 1-0. We put some pressure on them, but Sheridan made two errors that cost them four runs. We had runners at third both times and they tried to pick them off. They made bad throws and pretty much gave us four runs.”
According to Balisterri, the three runs scored in the seventh may have caused Lee to throw more than he needed to in the bottom of the inning.
“He only had one walk going into the seventh inning,” Balisterri said. “We scored those three runs in the top of the seventh and I think he kind of lost his focus. He went out there and walked the first two guys. I told him, ‘You’re at 100 pitches. You’re not throwing over 110 pitches so you better get these next three guys out with 10 pitches.’ He threw nine pitches and got them out.”
Balisterri credits Lee’s success to keeping himself in shape. Lee led the team with a 1.58 earned-run average last season and finished 6-3. He already has five wins this year.
As for the offense on Tuesday, Balisterri said there was some good and bad.
“We did not strike out one time in the game,” he said. “That’s good, but we walked seven times. We should have scored more runs, but we didn’t get it done when we needed to. We didn’t come up with the big hit and we need to do that. We did have four sacrifice bunts. We executed. We did everything you want to do in a game – we played good defense; offensively we executed, we just didn’t get the big hit. But when you have a guy who’s pitching like he’s pitching and playing good defense, you don’t need a lot of runs.”
Holloway went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a stolen base, senior Blake Nations went 1 for 2 and Vincent, sophomore Colby Johnson and senior Grayson Chilton each went 1 for 3.
“We’re very excited to be 3-0 in conference heading into Friday’s game with Texarkana,” Balisterri said. “Hopefully we can get a home victory and start 4-0 in conference.