Austin LaBounty lost a no-hit bid in the last inning, but the senior right-hander finished with a one-hit shutout, 10-strikeout, no-walk gem as Gilbert nipped visiting Bishop England 2-0 on Wednesday in a non-region clash of Class 2A Top 10 baseball teams.
LaBounty, a south Carolina commitment, retired 18 of the 19 Bishop batters he faced in the first six innings – the first eight to come to the plate in the game and 10 in a row after BE’s Matt Jones reached base on an infield error with two outs in the third inning.
In the seventh, BE leadoff man Alexander Knowlton bounced a 3-2 pitch over LaBounty’s head and into center field for a clean hit. LaBounty responded by fanning Taylor Oden for the third time in the game and getting a fielder’s choice grounder for the second out before freshman Ryan Knowles made a great play at third base for the final out.
Knowles made a diving backhand stop at the bag of a shot off the bat of Shawn Singletary, scrambled to his feet and threw a one-hopper to first for the final out.
“Austin really threw well and was very efficient,” said Gilbert coach Ashley Burnett, whose top-ranked Indians improved to 11-1 with their 10th win in a row. “He ended up with 72 pitches, which is very good. He threw strikes and the defense backed him up with some good play. That last one by Ryan was a heck of a play.”
Sixth-ranked Bishop England fell to 6-4. All four of the Bishops setbacks have been by two runs or less. BE pitchers Patrick Cornely and Fernando Pinillos combined for a one-hitter, as well. LaBounty had the only Gilbert safety – a single through the hole in the first inning – but it did not figure into the scoring.
The difference was walks and defensive miscues. Gilbert drew six free passes, two of which turned into runs. BE had one error that led to a run, while the Indians were flawless in the field.
“Bishop England is a quality team, and their two pitchers threw really well,” said Burnett. “We knew that to win we’d have to bring your ‘A’ game because they always do.”
Gilbert scored single runs in the first and second innings against Cornely.
In the first, Jason Smith drew a leadoff walk, stole second, reached third on a wild pitch and scored Connor Owings ground out to shortstop. In the second, Drew Moyer drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a ground out and on to third on a wild pitch. Taylor Leaphart then drew a two-out walk and swiped second base. BE catcher Matt Jones, filling in for starter Cameron Garrett, threw wildly to second, allowing Moyer to dash home with what turned out to be the final run of the game.
“I figured it was going to be a close game, but they executed in key situations and we didn’t,” said Mike Darnell, who is back at Bishop England after spending four seasons as the baseball coach and athletic director at Cardinal Newman.
Gilbert to date
The veteran Indians are pitching well and hitting the ball well in the early going. Gilbert boasts a 1.23 team ERA and a .373 team batting average. LaBounty is 4-0 on the hill and leads the team with a .556 batting average.
LaBounty is one of six Indians who are set to play college ball. Second baseman Owings and first baseman Mike Morrison are committed to Coastal Carolina, center fielder Smith is off to The Citadel, junior Moyer has given the early nod to Winthrop and senior pitcher Vic Burkett will continue at USC-Lancaster.
“We’ve a veteran team but we must continue to strive for improvement in all areas,” said Burnett. “You can never pay too much attention to the little things in this game, especially now with the new bats.”
The Tribe is running away with the Region 3-2A pennant race, sporting a 5-0 conference mark to date and an average winning margin of 12.2 runs.
The competition should pick up later this month and into early April. Gilbert travels to face Bishop England on March 31 and hosts 4A South Aiken on April 4 before playing five games in five days (April 7-11) at its own Sandlapper Invitational spring break tournament.