Nick Belcher came in clutch inning after inning, and his performance on the mound helped Owensboro shut out Apollo for a 6-0 win at home in a 9th District baseball battle.
Belcher — with the help of his defense — worked himself out of several jams, and the Red Devils (9-7, 2-0 9th District) remain perfect through two district games without allowing a run. The Eagles (8-10, 0-2) dropped their fifth game in a row after winning six straight.
Belcher said he was in a little funk early on but gained confidence as the game wore on.
“I started out and realized I didn’t really have all my stuff, so I mainly relied on my defense,” he said. “I basically picked it up from there. We got double plays and I got some crucial strikeouts at big times.”
Apollo’s Daylin Crabtree had a strong night of his own on the mound, but the Owensboro bats started getting hot in the third inning.
Red Devil head coach Logan Johnson said his team’s approach at the plate has started to take shape as of late, and they came through with a steady attack against the Eagles.
“We’ve been more aggressive at the plate early in the count,” he said. “We’re staying in the strike zone. The second time through, we’re making adjustments. That’s a big deal for our guys one through nine. You can’t just have one or two guys doing it.”
Owensboro’s first run came in the bottom of the third inning after Austin Gough doubled and eventually scored on a double by Tucker Hagan. The Red Devils added another run in the fifth with an RBI triple by Isaac Humphrey that plated Brennon Williams with no outs.
Humphrey was stranded on third when Crabtree struck out the next three batters, and Apollo head coach Mason Head said it was an inspiring response by Crabtree.
“I love his heart and desire and spirit on the mound,” Head said. “I think any time he’s on the mound, we have a good chance to win. I think that way about a lot of our pitchers. Daylin really showed his character today in coming out and just dealing a heck of a game.”
Owensboro went on to add two runs in the fifth with RBIs from Belcher and Williams, and got two more in the sixth with RBIs from Braxton French and Hagan.
“Overall, it was a team-type win, a team-type shutout,” Johnson said. “We played good defense and pitched when we had to.”
Trace Grenier replaced Belcher in the sixth and gave up only one hit in two innings. Johnson was overall pleased with the pitching from the duo, especially from Belcher.
“Nick is a competitor on the mound, so no matter what he is going to get up there and give his best,” he said. “He’s not going to back down. He’s not going to give in even when he’s facing some kind of obstacle. We can count on him to get us through it.”
Head said the Apollo offense is struggling right now and hasn’t been able to capitalize on strong pitching and defense.
“It comes back to hitting right now,” he said. “We’re not hitting the ball well enough. We’re not executing on offense. The defense is playing well enough to win but we can still clean it up. I have no qualms with our pitching right now. They’re putting us in positions to win games, we’re just not executing.”
Tanner Klee doubled and had two of Apollo’s three hits. For Owensboro, Hagan, Williams and Gough each had two hits. Gough scored twice and Hagan had two RBIs.
Both Belcher and Crabtree finished with seven strikeouts. Belcher walked four and Crabtree walked two.
WP: Belcher. LP: Crabtree. 2B: Klee (A), Hagan, Gough, Epperson (O). 3B: Humphrey (O).