By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- When there's someone on first base, Derek Reid is watching.
He's crouched down behind the plate, lurking just 90 feet away, studying the runner's every move. Before every pitch he'll glance down the base line, a subtle yet serious caution to anyone thinking of taking off. He's not fooled by a runner taking a lead. Instead, he waits. He waits for that lead to get just a few steps too generous. He'll wait until the runner thinks it's safe to drop his head and jog back to the bag after a pitch. That's when Reid will make his move.
"I'll watch how they act on first, how they move, what their feet are doing," Reid said. "You really have to be good at reading what the runner is planning on doing. Then you have to time the hitter's swing, keep your eye on it and react if the runner goes."
Victim No. 1 in Thursday's 10-3 win was Mike Accettullo. Skyline's leadoff man had started off the first inning with a single, merely providing the bait for Reid's trap. Accettullo advanced to second on a groundout, then held as the Hawks' third hitter popped out. Then, with two outs, David Thomas stepped into the batter's box.
He took a few pitches, while Accettullo began to get a little too leisurely with his trots back to the bag. Then, on a 2-1 count to Thomas, Accettullo stepped off too far. Reid sprang his trap. He fired the ball across the diamond into shortstop Tre Porter's glove. Accettullo darted for third, but the rundown was already underway. Accettullo was tagged out, ending the inning and keeping Skyline off the scoreboard.
"Derek has all of the skills a catcher should have," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "He's got a heck of a throwing arm, he blocks pitches fairly well and he's smart behind the plate. Really, he helps out the pitcher. When the other team has to sacrifice an out to advance a runner rather than just sending him to the next base, that's a powerful advantage."
With Reid behind the plate, opponents have attempted just 13 stolen bases in 10 games, with only 10 resulting in a successful steal. And while opponents are finding it difficult to advance along the basepaths, the Warriors are stealing several bases a game, and Thursday was no different.
Sherando's offense wasted little time in putting runs on the scoreboard, as the home team scored three in the opening frame. Leadoff man Brogan Hoover singled to lead off the game, then stole second to get into scoring position. Following back-to-back RBI doubles from Porter and Reid, Erik Albers hit an RBI single, scoring Reid and giving Sherando a 3-0 lead after one.
After the Warriors added a run in the second inning, Skyline's offense connected on some key hits off Sherando starter Zach Carney. Following his run-in with Reid's speedy tagout, Accettullo hit a double with two outs in the third, then scored on a hit by Ryan Settle. A double by Ty Helmick brought in two more runs, cutting Sherando's lead to just one run.
Skyline starter Joe Bass couldn't capitalize on his team's momentum, however, coughing up two more runs to the home team in the bottom half of the inning as Carney and Brad Deck each came in to score. Bass had flashes of good stuff, but lasted just three innings and took his second loss of the season.
"Joe was better today, I thought," Skyline coach Nick Sborz said. "He showed some signs of life and did a decent job of fighting back because he was getting behind in the count early in the game, but his pitch count was getting up there so that was what we saw from him."
With Sherando back in the lead comfortably, the tandem of Carney on the mound and Reid behind the plate made sure that cushion would be protected. And in the fourth inning, Reid found victim number two.
George Carter led off the fourth for the Hawks and reached base on a single, opening the door for a possible comeback. That door slammed shut just a few pitches later, as Reid motioned to Carney that the runner was too far off the base. Carney picked up on his catcher's signal and fired over to first to nab Carter for the out.
"[He] definitely affects our running game," Sborz said. "When he's got an arm like that you've got to pick your spots and go with them. We had a few opportunities but we got caught in a few of them."
Following Carter's pickoff, Reid no longer had to worry about springing any more traps, as the Hawks managed just three baserunners through the final three innings. Sherando's offense put up runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth frames, finishing with 10 stolen bases, and Carney lasted 62⁄3 innings to pick up his second win of the season.
The win moves Sherando to 9-1 on the year, while the Hawks drop to 3-6. But for the Warriors, their offense continues to put runs on the board, while the defense keeps them off for their opponents. As for Reid, whether he's motioning for his pitcher to throw over to first or gunning a runner down himself, the senior is behind the plate, always watching, ready to spring his trap.