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Fouch K's 14 as Fairfield wins Round 1 against rival Whiteoak

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Fairfield senior pitcher Gabe Fouch struck out 14 batters in the Lions' SHAC win at Whiteoak Saturday. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

MOWRYSTOWN — On a rare April spring day where the rain finally stayed away, a rivalry was renewed Saturday afternoon as pitchers battled strong, unique rulings were made, and the Fairfield Lions made the clutch hits when needed against the Whiteoak Wildcats to gain the 2-0 Southern Hills Athletic Conference win. 

Among three pitchers, there were 25 strikeouts recorded, as Fairfield senior Gabe Fouch used his arsenal of pitches for 14 strikeouts against Whiteoak in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference showdown. 

In what was the first of two meetings between the two teams this season, Fouch pitched six innings, as he allowed no runs on three hits and five walks, finishing the game with 118 pitches, 67 for strikes. 

“Anytime you come to Mowrystown, it's going to be a battle,” Fairfield head coach Kyle Zimmerman said. “This is a stellar ball club down here. We knew we'd have to make every component to our game work today. With Gabe Fouch on the mound, we felt comfortable. 

“But I'll tell you, the whole team today, from the leadoff batter to pinch runners, shared this win. They put forth tremendous grit and effort.”

Another Fairfield senior, Cade Miller, gained the save for the Lions, as his seventh-inning appearance saw him pitch one inning, allowing no runs on no hits and two walks. He closed the game out on 21 pitches. 

Whiteoak senior Kaden Moon-Stone pitched all seven innings, where he allowed two runs (one earned) on nine hits and no walks, with nine strikeouts. 

“I’m not so sure anything necessarily went wrong for us. Things went right for [Fairfield],” Whiteoak head coach Chris Veidt said. “I thought Kaden pitched an outstanding game.

“I thought he was fantastic. We just recently moved him into the two-hole, and I thought he pieced together some fantastic at-bats too against a great pitcher.” 

The first of Fairfield’s runs was scored in a unique way in the top of the second as the Whiteoak player had possession of the baseball with runners on second and third. As he had possession of the ball, he went out of play and into the dugout, and as the rules state, runners automatically get to advance a base, moving Cody Frost to home plate for a 1-0 FHS lead. 

That score stood until the top of the seventh when Miller (2-for-4, one run) reached first on a 3-2 count infield single with one out. Next was a base hit to left field by Fouch, who finished 2-for-4 for the game. After the second out was recorded, Corbin Willey (2-for-4) singled down the third base line to left field, scoring Miller for the two-run lead. 

“Corbin Willey with that insurance RBI made a big difference that let the pitcher [Miller] just kind of relax a little bit,” Zimmerman said. “When you bring a guy in who hasn’t thrown a pitch all game and he's got a two-run lead, that lets him settle in and be able to throw the pitches he needs to throw, when he needs to throw them, and get us out.”

Between the two runs scored by the Lions, quality baseball was played by both Highland County counterparts, as Miller led off the game with a full-count single to centerfield, followed by a base hit to past the second baseman to centerfield by Fouch. 

After an FHS runner was picked off at first base, and a strikeout was recorded for the second out, the Lions had a third hit in the inning, a single to right field by Corbin Willey, but the runners were left on the bases as the third out was recorded on a groundout. 

The bottom of the first saw two strikeouts and a walk from Fouch, facing three batters as the senior made up for his walk of the second batter he faced, as he had a pickoff at first base for an out. 

After the Lions scored their first run in the top of the second — an inning where they had a base hit from Carson Chandler (2-for-3) — the bottom of the second also belonged to the Lions as Fouch from the mound struck out the side. 

The Lions left two runners stranded in the top of the third after both Corbin Willey and Wyatt Willey each reached the bases on two-out outfield errors. Both runners were left stranded as Moon-Stone pitched the Lions into a fielder’s choice for the third out of the inning. 

The fourth inning saw the Lions record consecutive outs as Moon-Stone struck out the first two batters he faced. After Noah Campbell reached on an error, the top of the fourth ended with a groundout to the shortstop. 

In the bottom of the fourth, Whiteoak left two runners on the bases, as they too had runners reach the bases with two outs. First was Josiah Michael (2-for-3) singling to left field, followed by Jacen Applegate drawing a walk, but the inning ended with Fouch striking out the ensuing batter. 

The top of the fifth saw the Lions send three batters to the plate, as Zane Matthews (1-for-4) hit a one-out double on a full-count. Next was a trick play by Whiteoak that eventually saw them pick the runner off with a hidden ball play. The inning ended with a strikeout by Moon-Stone. 

In the bottom of the fifth, the Wildcats began with a single to centerfield off the bat of Dakota Clift (1-for-3), but the runner was thrown out at second base as Fairfield catcher Blaine Fauber made the throw from home plate to the shortstop Matthews for the out. The inning ended on a fielder’s choice. 

After a top of the sixth inning where Fairfield’s Chandler singled to left field for the lone hit of the top half of the inning, the bottom of the sixth saw WHS have the bases loaded with no outs, but it ended up being a clutch inning for Fouch once the dust settled. 

“[Fouch] got in a little bit of trouble there, but at the end of the day, he strikes out 14 batters and gets out of a monster jam in the sixth inning when they had the bases loaded,” Zimmerman said. “He had some help defensively from Cody Frost, snagging a little line drive that put that inning to bed.” 

WHS began the inning with Moon-Stone being hit by a pitch, followed by a walk by Eli Roberts, and the bases were loaded off a single to centerfield by Michael. 

Having a one-run lead and the bases full, Fouch brought his best stuff from the mound when it mattered the most, striking out the next two batters on a combined eight pitches (each batter seeing a 1-2 count), and ending the inning with a ball hit for a line out to Frost at second base. 

Fairfield added the aforementioned insurance run in the top of the seventh for the 2-0 led, and Miller entered the game in the bottom of the seventh, earning the save as he forced a groundout to third base, struck out a batter, followed that with two walks and ended the game with his second strikeout for the Lions’ win. 

The Wildcats drew seven walks in the loss, with Moon-Stone and Applegate each with two, and with one walk each were Roades, Roberts and Camron Storms.

“Honestly, games like this, seeing their best two pitchers in this type of atmosphere, in a 1-0, 2-0 ball game — are we satisfied by any stretch of the imagination? No,” Veidt said. “Are we happy? No. Are we over here spitting fire or losing our minds? No. We’ve got a young team, and things like that are really going to help us down the road.

“We have [Fairfield] again, and again, hats off to them. They played an outstanding, outstanding game. They're a veteran bunch. They're well coached. They're a good team, I mean, period. We get another shot at them. Hopefully it'll turn out better. 

“We’ve got some big league games coming down the road,” Veidt continued. “I’ll be honest with you, I think this year, the league, including the bottom, is much more balanced and better, top to bottom, than it has been in a long time. Anything can happen.”

With the loss, WHS is now 4-1 in the SHAC Division II Standings, and 9-2 overall. Fairfield improved to 7-2 overall with the win, as they now have a SHAC record of 4-1 in the Division II standings. 

“[The win] put us at a tie right now with Whiteoak for a share of the small school side of the SHAC, and we've got a lot of baseball left to play, so by no means can we celebrate early,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve got to get back to the grindstone, keep focusing and keep building on what we've got going so far.

“We had everybody step up today, and that's what it takes to get the wins. As long as we continue to do that hit the baseball, we’re going to have a real fun season.”

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WHS    000 000 0 — 0 3 4

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