And hit they did. District 6 champ Easton rapped out 10 hits, putting up three-spots in the first, second, and fourth, to win going away, 9-3. District 7 champ Hughesville, now in the elimination bracket, plays to stay alive today at 1:30 p.m. against Elkton.
Not knowing what District 7 champ Hughesville had, Fitzhugh added, was a bit of trouble, but he had scouted them as best he could.
“We knew they had won the state [title] last year, and we knew what we saw in videos on the internet,” Fitzhugh said. “So we knew we were going to have to throw our two No. 1 pitchers, and it would depend on how things went to see if we could use them a little, or if we had to use one for a long time.”
In Little League, with pitch counts and days-ofrest rules strictly limiting pitching, especially at ages 12 and under, shepherding one’s arms is an integral part of play.
So when Hughesville got on the board early, taking a 2-0 lead with two outs in the top of the first, Fitzhugh was hoping to get out of the jam with starting pitcher Chris Baynard.
And Easton caught a break, when Baynard struck out Brandon Paschal looking for the third out of the inning — on his 24th pitch.
Under the “plateau rule,” if a pitcher begins a plate appearance against a batter while just below a certain pitch count, and faces no batters beyond that one, the total pitch count reverts to the maximum under the plateau.
One such plateau is 20 pitches; a pitcher who throws that many or less in a single day needs no calendar days of rest before pitching again. Throwing 21-35 requires one calendar day off, while 36-50 requires two.
Since Baynard took on Paschal with 19 pitches thrown, and Fitzhugh pulled him before he threw a pitch in the second inning, Baynard’s official pitch count was only 20, making him available to pitch in today’s 4 p.m. win-bracket semifinal against District 2 champ Thurmont.
Easton responded to Hughesville’s opening with a stronger one of their own.
Leadoff man Cal Roser (three runs) walked to start the home half of the first; he stole second and, one out later, Bobby Fitzhugh walked. Baynard came up next and one-hopped a pitch by Hughesville starter Quade over the outfield fence; the ground-rule double plated Roser and put Bobby Fitzhugh at third base.
Jogger Shockley came up next and laid down a squeeze bunt; Bobby Fitzhugh scored on the successful sacrifice, and Baynard, motoring around as well, scored all the way from second, while Shockley made second amidst all the confusion at the plate. But he was gunned down while trying for third, for the second out.
The next batter struck out, ending the inning, but not before Easton had scored three times to take a lead the team would not relinquish.
Bobby Fitzhugh got the ball to start the top of the second, and quickly retired the side, all on strikes. He would finish with seven in four innings of relief work, throwing 50 pitches and finishing at the two-day rest plateau, another break for the District 6 champs. If Easton wins today, the team’s next game would be the win-bracket championship on Tuesday night.
“That’s a big difference for us,” Steve Fitzhugh said. “Now, with him able to come back for that game, we’ll definitely have one of our couple of top pitchers available for the win-bracket game, if we manage to make it to that.
“So, the runs we scored helped us in more than one way,” the Easton manager added. “Since it obviously helped us win, and since, if it was, say, 2-1, we’d have had to consider, ‘Do we burn one of our top pitchers to stay in this game, and maybe be without everyone if we make it to the winbracket game Tuesday?’ Now, we don’t have to think about that already, at least.”
Easton added three more in the bottom of the second, Peyton Paugh walking and scoring on a wild pitch, and Bobby Fitzhugh driving in Dylan Bentz and Roser with a two-out single.
Hughesville narrowed the gap in the top half of the third; Trent Gerhardt, hit by a one-out pitch, moved to second on a walk to J. J. Mitchell, and scored a moment later when Mitchell got caught in a rundown between second and third following a passed ball.
But that was as close as it got, Easton icing things in the bottom of the fourth in a big way — Baynard blasting a three-run homer to deadcenter field to make it 9-3.
Bentz, on the bump in the top of the sixth, closed it out in just over a dozen pitches, striking out two batters.
Notes: Bobby Fitzhugh threw 50 pitches in relief, making him available Tuesday . ... Owen Newnam was 2 for 2 off the bench for Easton; Jack Dukehart doubled and scored a run in the fourth, and Bentz had an infield single . ... Hughesville, which blew out District 5 champ Elkton 11-1, hit four home runs in its tournament opener Saturday, to earn a second-round winbracket berth against District 6.