VALE â€” Freshman right-handed pitcher Alec Johnson had no small task ahead of him on Wednesday as the West Lincoln Rebels faced the Hibriten Panthers.
Johnson pitched the first game of his high school career for the Rebels under dark, ominous skies with heavy wind at times, and while three runs late in the game lifted the Panthers to a 5-4 win, Johnson impressed the West Lincoln coaching staff with his velocity and two styles of curveballs that left the Hibriten batters scratching their heads.
â€œI was very impressed with him,â€ West Lincoln head coach Alan Chapman said. â€œHeâ€™s fighting for that starting spot and I think he did
really well. Itâ€™s just a shame we let him down there at the end. He has good velocity and can locate the ball well for a freshman.â€
The Rebels jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff batter Brett Huff got to first on an error by the Hibriten short stop but was thrown out at second when Dalton Towery hit a fielderâ€™s choice back to the pitcher. Chandler Jenkins drew a walk and Cameron High reached first on an error by the third baseman to load the bases. First baseman Krishna Rana hit a single that brought one runner across home plate, followed by an overthrow by the Hibriten short stop on a double-play attempt that brought the second runner home and put the Rebels ahead 2-0.
The West Lincoln rally ended with the next batter, when catcher Derrick Braun connected for a hit to shallow left field and Rana was thrown out at the plate.
â€œWe werenâ€™t able to capitalize on a lot of early opportunities,â€ Chapman said. â€œThere were a couple of times early that we just werenâ€™t able to make it home. We had six hits and scored on a lot of errors by them, so itâ€™s still not like weâ€™re hitting and driving the ball and getting extra bases.â€
Johnson put his pitching skills on display with the first batter for Hibriten in the top of the second. He got ahead to 1-2 with curveballs, and then struck out the batter looking with another breaking ball.
The Rebels took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Zack Smith reached first with a shot deep down the left field line. With two outs, Towery hit another shot to left field that brought Smith across home plate.
West Lincoln added one more run, in the bottom of the fourth.
Chapman said despite a rocky start to the season, he still expected good things from the Rebels.
â€œWeâ€™ve had good practices, when we get outside weâ€™ve had good reps and weâ€™ve gotten a lot done,â€ he said. â€œWe still probably havenâ€™t gotten everything in because of the short amount of time but as far as our pitching, offense and defense general reps, weâ€™ve had good reps and done good things. Weâ€™re going to be fine eventually but we have to get through these growing pains and get people in positions where they can help us.â€
West Lincoln travels to Fred T. Foard today, where theyâ€™ll face another difficult nonconference game.
â€œFoard typically has a real good pitcher and a couple of guys who can swing the bat, so my guess is it will be the same this year,â€ Chapman said. â€œItâ€™ll be another challenge for us, we donâ€™t have an easy nonconference season.â€