Bolen sharp in Jackson baseball team's 3-1 victory over Poplar Bluff

Friday, April 20, 2012
Jackson coach Tatum Kitchen, left, congratulates Trent Wills after Wills' triple during the fourth inning Thursday. (Fred Lynch)

Jackson catcher Clay Macke was the first to proclaim senior pitcher Alex Bolen healthy.

The second and third opinions followed Thursday after the right-hander ended a 23-day hiatus from the mound due to bursitis in his throwing shoulder.

Macke got a preview of Bolen's stuff before Jackson's 3-1 victory against Poplar Bluff at Whitey Herzog Stadium in Jackson.

"Warming up with him in the bullpen, he actually had some pretty good velocity on it," Macke said. "It surprised me. I was kind of shocked by it. He was bringing it and he was hitting his spots. I hardly had to move the glove."

Not much changed in the game.

Jackson pitcher Alex Bolen tries to pick off a Poplar Bluff baserunner at first base during the fifth inning Thursday at Whitey Herzog Stadium in Jackson. (Fred Lynch)

Bolen threw 93 pitches in a two-hit complete game. He struck out 11 and walked one.

"At first we were worried he had a significant injury," Jackson coach Tatum Kitchen said. "What he had was some inflammation in the shoulder that was bad."

Bolen, who improved to 2-0, was making just his third start of the season due to the ailment, which came as a surprise to Poplar Bluff coach Stan Bullington.

"He's cured," Bullington said with a laugh.

The performance was another masterful outing by Bolen, who has allowed just six hits over 18 innings this season. He has struck out 34 and walked just two.

The performance also was a remedy for Jackson (5-6), which had lost games the previous two days to Dexter and Festus.

"We had to beat Bluff," Kitchen said about the SEMO Conference and district opponent. "They're a super team. Offensively, coming in, we knew they were going to be very good. So we were just so pleased how well he threw the ball. Outstanding."

Bolen had to pitch around two bases-loaded jams in the game, which were partially of his making.

He gave us a single, issued his lone walk and hit a batter in the first inning but escaped when he started a home-to-first double play on a comebacker to the mound.

"My curveball took a while to get going, but finally it came back to me," Bolen said. "I think that's all part of being out for a while. I really haven't even thrown bullpens at all."

Bolen gave the Indians the lead in the third inning with a two-out single over the third-base bag that scored Ryan O'Rear from second base. O'Rear had stolen second after being hit by a pitch.

Jackson upped the lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning when Trent Wills tripled into the left-field corner and scored on a passed ball.

Poplar Bluff threatened in the fifth inning. Bolen hit the leadoff man and yielded a single to Brandon Stuckenschnieder, the No. 9 hitter. Bolen struck out the next two batters but plunked No. 3 batter Josh King on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases.

He appeared to escape the jam when Mules cleanup hitter Alex Lewis hit a sharp grounder to second baseman O'Rear, who threw to first.

Jackson players were well on their way to the dugout when they were notified of catcher's interference.

"I didn't know," Bolen said. "I didn't even see it or anything. I just saw the ground ball to second. I got all the way over [to the dugout] and found out it had hit his glove."

The batter was awarded first base, which forced in a run to cut Jackson's lead to 2-1.

"That was the correct call," Kitchen said. "At first we were all [upset], but our catcher didn't deny it, and his hand was swollen. So we knew what happened."

Bolen returned to the mound and completed a strikeout of the side when he got No. 5 hitter Jeffrey Rowland swinging on an 0-2 pitch.

"We're coming off the field high-fiving, and then to hear them say, 'Oh no, come on back out,' and he walks back out and strikes that kid out. ... He was just magnificent," Kitchen said. "I couldn't have been any prouder of him."

No one was more thankful than Macke.

"He saved me there," Macke said. "I went out there and was like, 'Guys, I'm sorry.' But he came out after that and he really adjusted."

It was the final momentum swing of the game.

"We had a chance to blow it open right there and just didn't come through with that timely hit," Bullington said. "He came through with the timely strikeout. He pitched well. Our approach at the plate just wasn't good."

Jackson got the run back in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Kyle James, who scored courtesy runner Laban Petzoldt after Bolen doubled with one out.

Poplar Bluff sophomore left-hander Wesley Pyles went all six innings and struck out nine Indians. He allowed seven hits and walked two.

Pyles was left tipping his cap to Bolen, who held Pyles hitless, including two strikeouts.

"I have to give it to that pitcher," Pyles said. "He hit his spots. He kept us off-balance and threw it real well today. He kept it low and got his offspeed over.

"He looked really good today."

Poplar Bluff0000100--122

WP -- Alex Bolen, 2-0. LP -- Wesley Pyles. 3B -- Trent Wills (J). 2B -- Bolen (J). Multiple hits -- Jackson: Bolen 2-3, Wills 2-3. Records -- Poplar Bluff 8-5, Jackson 5-6.

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