Harding baseball gets past JFK, 5-2

WARREN – Warren G. Harding might not always have the propensity to rally, but the Raiders’ baseball team reacted well after falling behind cross-town rival John F. Kennedy.

WGH came away with a 5-2 victory over JFK Wednesday at Misocky Field.

“(Keeping it close until the bats woke up) was huge,” Harding coach Andrew Burnett said. “Their pitcher did a nice job. He kept us off balance early. A 2-0 lead (for the other team) in the past might have been enough to set us off. We stayed on it (tonight). I’m real proud of them.”

The Eagles took a 2-0 lead after one inning as Anthony Marino’s two RBI single drove in Gavin Kohn and Drew Mendik. Kohn drew a one-out walk, while Mendik doubled to center.

Harding righty Doug Painter then shut down the Kennedy attack, making amends for seven batters stepping in the box during the first.

“Doug pitched his butt off,” Burnett said. “When his stuff is moving, he is unbelievable. He has three pitches and he can locate all of them. He’s one of the best in the area.”

“(Painter) threw a nice game,” Kennedy coach Don Lee said. “I gave him the game ball.”

The Eagles stranded runners in scoring position in the second and third, but no one reached as far as second over the final four frames.

“That shows how much we’ve grown and matured,” Burnett said. “It’s a huge help any time the pitcher can trust the defense and let the hitters put the ball in play. The defense is on its toes because everyone knows the ball can come their way at any time.”

Painter allowed two earned runs on four hits, two walks and a hit batter in the complete-game victory. He struck out five in holding the Eagles in check while the Raiders’ bats heated up.

“We were a little more selective,” Burnett said. “We made him throw some pitches. He was hitting his spots (early on). He was throwing low to the outside corner. That’s a tough spot to hit it. He was throwing some breaking stuff early in counts. I told them, if he does that, let it go. He gave us a few we could put the bat on.”

Harding (7-10) battled back to plate on Painter’s bases-loaded walk in the second. It was the third, however, that changed the course of the contest. Dontai Young brought home Cory McPherson, while Painter when he reached on an error. Mark Herron then doubled to center to score Young for a 4-2 Raiders’ lead midway through the fourth.

Painter sat the Eagles down in order in the bottom half of the inning.

“That was huge,” Burnett said. “We gave up two early, but we came back and got one before we jumped on them for three. That flipped the switch and Doug took over. He has the ability to do that.”

Grant Williams, Antonio Walker and McPherson all singled to load the bases before Painter drew another walk for a final tally.

Ryan Lee took the loss, but was hurt by the Kennedy defense. He allowed one earned run on seven hits and four walks, but the Eagles committed committed six errors. He struck out five in five innings of work.

“We walked two runs in and gave them the other three,” Lee said. “Our shortstop had a bad day. Ryan pitched good enough to win. He threw 94 pitches. He was at 71 when they got their three runs and we were supposed to be out of the inning.

“I’m happy. I don’t like the loss, but that’s what we’re here for. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes.”

“There were a couple of times there were two outs when they (committed an error),” Burnett said. “It was a shot in the arm when we needed it. The pitcher feels he has to pitch a perfect game when that’s happening behind him.”