Oak Ridge pitcher strikes out 12 in 8-2 victory over Advance

Saturday, March 29, 2008

ADVANCE -- Garret Light let out a grunt as he unleashed a fastball to the plate in the fifth inning Friday.

Advance's David VanGennip swung and missed for Light's ninth strikeout. The Oak Ridge sophomore would finish with 12 strikeouts in six innings of work to lead his Blue Jays to an 8-2 victory.

"I would get them going with the fastball, then I'd just switch it to the curveball, and they would come out way ahead of it," Light said.

The Hornets struck for two runs in the first inning, but Light shut them down after that. Seven of the last nine outs he recorded came on strikeouts.

"I always want to strike them out," he said. "But as long as we get an out, it's fine. Errors have been trouble for us in the past."

Oak Ridge catcher Brett Thomas said Light wasn't overpowering hitters as much as he consistently hit his spots.

"The umpire told me that if he hit his spot, even if it was an inch outside or so, he'd call it," Thomas said. "He was just hitting it perfect. There's nothing more you can ask for. He was keeping it low."

Even when Advance threatened, Light found a way to wiggle out of trouble. In the sixth inning, the Hornets (0-4) put their first two runners on via errors, but Light struck out the next two batters. He got Dylan Dunnivan to fly out to center to quell the threat.

"He's one of those pitchers that gets stronger as he goes," Thomas said. "He'll start out at 70 mph, and he'll end up mid 70s because he gets stronger as he gets warmed up and more into the game."

Advance coach Allen Pearman said he wanted his players to exercise patience against Light.

"We were trying to make him work," Pearman said. "We were trying to take a strike. We were down, for the most part, four runs for most of the ballgame."

Light's influence on the game didn't stop on the mound. He also went 3-for-4 with three runs scored. His most decisive hit came in the fifth inning when he launched a towering two-run home run to left field.

"I saw that he threw a knuckleball a few times," Light said of Advance pitcher Jacob Bond. "I just figured he'd start off with a fastball."

Bond did deliver a fastball, and Light didn't miss. His teammates mobbed him when he arrived at the plate, but Light gave a knowing look to his first-base coach.

"He told me just to put something in play because it was getting kind of boring," Light recalled.

Oak Ridge coach Jason Niswonger said he likes Light as the leadoff hitter because of his experience. Even though Light is only a sophomore, Niswonger said Light has been playing baseball for years.

"He's a leadoff hitter, but he can also hit a home run every now and then," Niswonger said. "He's so smart. He's a good example for the other guys."

Oak Ridge (3-0) jumped out to an early lead by displaying patience at the plate. Advance starter Adam Cato walked five batters and surrendered a single in the first inning. Two of the walks came with the bases loaded. He left after facing eight batters, and VanGennip got the Hornets out of the inning by inducing a double play. But the damage was done as Oak Ridge led 4-0 before Advance even batted.

"If we want to do anything, we're going to have to throw strikes," Pearman said. "Our starter, Cato, a senior, a good pitcher, he just didn't have it today. VanGennip had somewhat of a sore arm. He came in and threw some strikes. Jake Bond threw quite a bit the other day and I was scared to use him, but he threw strikes. Throwing strikes is the key. If you want to win ballgames, you've got to get ahead of hitters."

Advance cut Oak Ridge's lead in half with two in the bottom of the first, but the Blue Jays scored two more in the second, with one coming on Dustin Meyr's single to score Light.

After Light kept the Advance hitters off balance for six innings, Niswonger turned to Thomas, a freshman, to pitch the seventh. He responded by striking out all three batters he faced.

"Garret is more of a hit-his-spots kid, and I'm a little bit more of a power pitcher," Thomas said. "I knew that if I just threw hard fastballs, they probably wouldn't catch up to it from being used to Garret all game."

It was an impressive outing for Thomas, making his second varsity appearance. Of course it wasn't as memorable as his first outing, which came Thursday, when he threw a five-inning no-hitter.

"It's my second time ever pitching a varsity game, what's not exciting about that?" Thomas said. "I got to pitch [Thursday], a whole six innings. I got lucky. I threw a no-hitter. But still, it's exciting."

With Thomas, a freshman, throwing a no-hitter and Light, a sophomore, tossing six strong innings in back-to-back days, Niswonger is excited about the possibilities, especially since he starts four freshmen.

"They can be very good, no question," Niswonger said. "We could be fighting for a district championship soon. Valle Catholic is in our district. They're very tough, the third-ranked team in the state right now. But we don't know how the district is going to shake up next year. There are definitely going to be some changes."

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@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:WP -- Garret Light. LP -- Adam Cato. 2B -- Light (OR). HR -- Light (OR). Multiple hits -- Oak Ridge: Light 3-4, Dustin Meyr 2-5; Advance: Garret Mayo 2-3, Cory Cooper 2-3. Records -- Oak Ridge 3-0, Advance 0-4.

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