Dutch Fork’s Chad Balderman altered the equation in Region 5-4A baseball on Thursday night. The senior right-hander fired a one-hit shutout against White Knoll to healine the Silver Foxes' key win.
The result was Dutch Fork moved into the middle of the pennant race. The Silver Foxes (8-11 overall) find themselves at 7-3 in region matters, and tied for second place with Lexington, one half game behind North Augusta (7-2) and one half game ahead of White Knoll (6-3).
“Obviously, this win changes things,” said first-year DF coach Randy Johnson. “We went from just looking to get into the playoffs to having a chance at winning the championship. Chad was really something. He was totally in command.”
Indeed. Balderman got off on the wrong foot, plunking the first Timberwolves batter he faced with a pitch, but he was masterful thereafter. In fact, just two WK hitters reached base the rest of the way. A leadoff single in the fifth inning by catcher Austin Dunn was the only WK hit. Balderman, who had 10 strikeouts, issued his only walk with two outs in the seven inning.
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The Silver Foxes didn’t muster much offensive support against WK starter Taylor Britain, but it was enough. In all, the Silver Foxes produced a meager three hits, but manufactured single unearned runs in the second and third innings. Andrew Gates led of the second inning with a single, stole second base and scampered home on a Timberwolves error. In the third, Chris Watford drew a two-out walk, moved to second on a single by Ryan McPhail, advanced to third on a wild pitch and dashed home on a passed ball.
It was a tough loss for White Knoll, which had pulled even with North Augusta in the loss column after beating Lexington 7-3 on Wednesday.
Pitching has been Dutch Fork’s strength this season.
“We have siold, veteran pitching, but we’ve basically have struggled at the plate all season,” said Johnson, who has been involved in the program for eight seasons.
The Silver Foxes have a .264 team batting average and have only three .300 hitters. Tyler Martin tops the club with a .345 batting mark and has 12 RBIs. McPhail is hitting .327 with a team-high 14 RBIs. Will Keel is hitting .309 with 12 runs scored. Otherwise, Balderman is at .276 and leads the team in runs scored (16) and steals (9).
Dutch Fork must guard against a letback Friday at home against Richland Northeast. The Cavaliers’ playoff hopes took a major hit last night in a crushing 7-6 loss at Aiken. RNE fell to 2-6 in the region, while Aiken (4-5) jumped over Irmo (4-6) and into fifth place.