Panthers' pitching nearly perfect

BENTON - It was a scoreless game through four innings, but the Benton Panthers came away with a 5-0 victory over the Monticello Billies Friday night in Benton. Junior left-handed started Justin Vincent gave up one hit, a double in the second inning, and retired the last 13 batters he faced. The Panthers retired the last 16 batters of the game.

“He did a great job,” Benton Coach Mark Balisterri said of Vincent.
"Even the one hit he gave up was a 1-2 changeup and he threw the changeup good. It was a little bit up; I think that’s why the kid got the barrel on the ball. Our pitchers today had complete command of their pitches.”

Vincent threw six shutout innings for the win, giving up one hit and no walks while striking out four. He threw 75 pitches. Senior lefty Garrison Roy pitched the last inning, setting down all three batters he faced and striking out one.

“We’ve got to be pitchers,” Balisterri said. “Every one of our pitchers are good enough where every pitch they throw should be thrown with a purpose. That’s what we worked hard on all week long and these two kids, they just took a hold of it and did a great job. If we can just build on that, we’ll be fine.”

The Panthers’ (2-2) bats weren’t making much noise either as they had only four hits, but were hitting the ball hard, especially early. Benton got a two-out double to right field from center fielder Greg Pryor in the bottom of the second and a fourth-inning leadoff single over the shortstop’s head from shortstop Brooks Balisterri, but that was it for the Panthers through four.

“We hit the ball hard the first three innings,” Balisterri said. “We hit the ball hard four or five times, but it was just right at them. If you turn those around into base hits, we’ll end up having eight or 10 hits.
“We only struck out one time and that was in the last inning. Other than that, we didn’t strike out any. If we can do that, if we can put the bat on the ball, the hits will start coming around. I was real pleased.”

Roy, who started in left field, was hit by a pitch on a full count to lead off the bottom of the fifth and went to second base on first baseman Ryne Besancon’s attempted sacrifice bunt that turned into an infield single when the catcher didn’t have a good throwing lane to first base.

Senior Jalon Britton, who pinch ran for Roy, was forced out at third base for the first out, but Monticello’s starter Will Naron walked two consecutive batters, the last to junior second baseman Jack James for an RBI that scored Besancon for the first run of the game. With the bases still loaded and one out, third-place hitter Balisterri hit a sacrifice fly to put the Panthers up 2-0.

With the Panthers’ recent struggles at the plate, Coach Balisterri said he moved the lineup around.

“We mixed the lineup up a little bit,” he said. “We put Brooks in the three hole and moved Matthew [Krikorian] to the one hole and I think we might stay with that for a little while and see how it works.”

The Billies’ defense failed them in the bottom of the sixth as each player in the infield except first base made and error that resulted in three unearned runs. Benton junior designated hitter Taylor Schmidt reached on a fielding error by the shortstop and Pryor reached on a throwing error by the second baseman, who’s throw pulled the shortstop off second base. Roy walked and Schmidt scored on Besancon’s fielder’s choice to third base. The Billies third baseman made a fielding error to the next batter to keep the inning going and load the bases, and leadoff man Krikorian made Monticello pay with a double down the left-field line that scored two to put the Panthers up 5-0.

Krikorian finished 1 for 3 with two RBIs, Balisterri was 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly, Pryor was 1 for 3, and Besancon went 1 for 2 with two runs scored and an RBI.

For the Billies, Naron pitched five innings for the loss, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks while hitting a batter.

He didn’t strike out a Panther. Beau Rush had the only hit for the Billies, going 1 for 2 with a double to the left-centerfield gap.