Pilgrims fall short in NLC closer at Northridge

MIDDLEBURY – A big dose of Northridge starter Shannon Baker went a long way, but the fight of Plymouth’s Pilgrims nearly made up for it as the Raiders hung on to take an NLC win by a 6-3 final.
“It would be nice to hopefully start saying good job on the win,” said Ryan Wolfe Plymouth head coach. “We battled a good team. Maybe something will start clicking that we can start beating these good teams. We’re capable. I would have liked to get on the pitcher before the sixth, but when we got on him we got on him. The bottom of the lineup got on him tonight, and that’s what has to happen if we want to start picking up those wins.”
Baker was almost the story of the game, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the game, but a hit by Plymouth catcher Elijah Nixon broke up that bid to lead off the sixth, and the rest of the Pilgrims took some of the luster off the performance, plating three runs in the inning and seeing the tying run come to the plate.
The seventh was more of the same with a leadoff single by George Stults, but pinch runner Cody Gamble got doubled up on a Nixon line drive to second. After a double by Jacob Frantz and a walk by leadoff man Justin Drudge, the Pilgrims again had the tying run at the plate before Baker was able to get Riley Cartwright to end the game.
Plymouth starter Joey Dragani matched Baker for much of the game, pitching three innings of one-hit ball himself, but a tough four-run fifth shortened his night. Reliever Bailey Clark came on for a second straight night to record six straight outs for the Pilgrims.
“If he can come in and give us six outs, that can shorten the game up for that starter,” said Wolfe of Clark’s second straight strong outing. “That makes a difference physically. Jake (Frantz) has been doing okay finishing games but you have to be able to physically go the distance, and if he’s somebody that can shorten the game for our starters then we can use that.”
“We have the tying run at the plate with a chance to win late in the game,” said Wolfe. “We’re right there. We have some kids that battle. They don’t like to lose. They want to win — they’re itching to win.
“That’s what I tried to get through to them after the game; that’s how we’re going into the sectional. We’re going to battle. Are we going to make some mistakes? Yes we are, but that fight is in them. You can try to coach that, but you can’t. It’s got to be in them.”
Northridge claims the Northern Lakes Conference championship with the win and ends its regular season at 21-3 and takes on Goshen in the first round of the Elkhart Sectional. Plymouth (11-14) closes NLC play tied for fifth in the conference at 5-9 alongside Goshen. The Pilgrims have first round sectional opponent John Glenn at Bill Nixon Field on Friday night with a 7 p.m start.
At Middlebury
Plymouth: 000 003 0 — 3 6 1
Northridge: 100 140 x — 6 8 0
Joe Dragani (L 3-2), Bailey Clark 5 and Elijah Nixon; Shannon Baker (5-1) and Jake Baylis.
2B: Jacob Frantz (P), Alan Grusy (N).