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Jackson opens with win
CHARLESTON -- The way things were progressing Saturday, Chris Roth knew he had to be at the top of his game.
Roth was, not that Jackson Senior Babe Ruth baseball coach Paul Sander expected any different.
Roth pitched a four-hit shutout as Jackson beat Colorado 3-0 in the opening round of the Senior Babe Ruth Midwest Plains Regional at Hillhouse Park.
"A shutout at this level is maybe a little too much to expect," Sander said. "But you expect him to throw like that."
Roth is not only the ace of Jackson's summer team, he also has been the ace of the Saxony Lutheran High School squad that Sander coaches.
"Chris has come through for us so many times," said Sander, whose squad improved to 31-5. "It was pretty typical for him."
With Colorado's Matt Brown virtually matching Roth pitch for pitch -- Brown allowed four hits and one earned run while striking out 12 -- Roth knew he couldn't afford any lapses.
"Their pitcher was good. I knew I had to hold them," Roth said.
Roth struck out nine and walked one. He retired the last eight batters he faced.
"The first couple of innings I wasn't hitting my spots," Roth said. "As the game went on, I felt stronger and I started hitting my spots."
Roth faced serious trouble in just one inning, the third, as Colorado threatened to break on top.
An error and Roth's only walk put runners on first and second with two outs. Second baseman Spencer Sander -- the coach's son -- saved a run as he made a diving stop on a ground ball by Zeb Baylie that appeared headed for right field.
Baylie's infield single loaded the bases, but Roth escaped the jam.
"Except for one inning, Chris was in total control," coach Sander said.
After Brown retired the first 10 hitters he faced, Jackson finally broke through in the top of the fourth inning.
With one out, Sander reached on an error and Garrett Fritsche singled. Sander advanced to third and Fritsche moved up to second on the throw.
Ryan Bass blooped a single to short right-center field that almost was caught on a dive as Sander scored the game's first run and Fritsche stopped at third.
After Bryant Steffens walked to load the bases, Alex Beussink's single plated Fritsche to make it 2-0.
"We finally were able to scratch out some runs in that inning," Paul Sander said.
Jackson scored its final run in the seventh. Clay Roth, a midgame defensive replacement, got a one-out single. He moved to second on a passed ball, to third on a ground out and came around on another passed ball.
"That was a big run," Sander said. "Clay is a speed burner. Once he got on, he just manufactured that run."
Added Sander of Chris Roth's cousin: "He's just 15, but he's got a good future."
Chris Roth didn't miss a beat despite throwing to a new catcher in Saturday's game.
Bret Steffens has caught for Jackson most of the season, but he is not available in the regional because of a previously scheduled family vacation.
Josh DeBrock, who played with Scott County's summer team, was added to Jackson's roster for the regional. But DeBrock was not on hand Saturday as he attended a wedding.
So Bass, Jackson's normal third baseman, moved behind the plate.
"I catch here and there and I caught a lot back in the day," said Bass, the third baseman on Notre Dame's Class 3 state championship team this year. "It was no big deal.
"Chris was hitting his spots, and he had his slider going."
Sander said DeBrock will catch today, but he had no qualms about putting Bass, a standout soccer goalie who will attend Rockhurst University on a soccer scholarship, back there for the regional opener.
"He's a good athlete," Sander said.
While Jackson is the only non-state champion in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament, the team was confident it could compete against any squad on hand.
Winning Saturday's opener only will fuel Jackson's confidence heading into today's 4 p.m. winners bracket semifinal against Nebraska champion Grand Island.
"It's huge to win that first game because it would be so hard to come out of the losers bracket," Chris Roth said. "We feel good."