By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- No. 12 Shenandoah got an outstanding pitching performance from an unlikely hero in a nonconference baseball matchup with visiting York (Pa.) on Monday at Bridgeforth Field.
With Hornets starting pitcher Billy Arens struggling to hold a second-inning lead, Shenandoah head coach Kevin Anderson refused to wait around and watch his team's four-run lead evaporate. Anderson instead went to the bullpen, calling upon freshman Eric Liskey to prevent the Spartans from doing further damage.
The move played out brilliantly for Anderson and the Hornets, as Liskey -- making just his second varsity appearance -- tossed the final eight innings for Shenandoah and picked up his first collegiate win in the 8-4 victory.
"I can't remember a time when I've ever been prouder of a young man," Anderson said. "He took control of the baseball game from the time he came in, and that's a great credit to his maturity level, his work habits, and I just can't say enough great things about him."
Shenandoah (16-6) found itself holding an early advantage after a four-run first inning, but Arens struggled to record an out in the top of the second.
Arens hit the first two batters he faced in the inning, and both of York's runners advanced on an error during a pickoff attempt at second. York's (9-12) No. 7 batter, Derek Pitzer, then immediately jumped on the first pitch he saw from Arens and sent the ball into right field for an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-1.
Anderson said he noticed Arens struggling with his balance point and separation on the mound during the first inning, and the Hornets' coach opted to go to with the freshman right-hander Liskey quickly after Arens struggled in the second.
"You never want to have to go in that early, I don't think, but limiting the damage as much as possible was the big thing," Liskey said. "Just keeping us in the game, keep our lead, put your team in a position to win."
Liskey surrendered an RBI single to Russ Patti on his first pitch that made the score 4-2, but Liskey got a strikeout and induced a 6-3 double play to escape the inning.
The Hornets as a team turned three double plays behind Liskey, who was able to continuously work ahead of hitters and throw his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes.
Liskey didn't allow a walk in his eight innings pitched and struck out two, while allowing two earned runs on seven hits. Liskey said he worked on getting early strikes and allowing his defense to do the work behind him.
"The double plays were big. Coach always emphasizes keeping the guy on first so we can always get the double play," Liskey said. "It's just a way to be efficient and go deep into a ballgame. Our defense does a great job -- whenever the ball is hit I have confidence in our guys that they were going to make a play."
Shenandoah responded to the Spartans' two-run spurt with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second, as sophomore J.J. McDaniel belted his second home run of the season.
McDaniel's two-run blast, which came off York starter Tyler Alexander, got caught in the wind that steadily gusted from leftfield to rightfield, but the ball snuck just inside the rightfield foul pole for a home run.
"It was just like Coach [Anderson] was saying, just stay back and unload it to the right side," McDaniel said. "And that's where I feel more comfortable hitting baseballs, is to the right side. I just stayed back and got the pitch I needed to -- an outside fastball -- and just unloaded on it."
York added a run in the top of the fifth on a single by Dustin Worthman that made the score 6-3, but the Hornets answered with a run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the frame. Shenandoah added another run -- also on a wild pitch -- in the sixth.
Shenandoah's four runs in the first inning came as a result of some shaky defense from the Spartans, who committed two errors in the inning. Corbin Lucas' RBI double gave the Hornets a 1-0 lead, and Mikey Paul (2-for-4, double, two RBIs, two runs scored) followed with a two-run single. Dan Powers' RBI groundout gave Shenandoah a 4-0 lead.
Shenandoah hosts ODAC leader Bridgewater today as the Hornets return to conference action. Sherando graduate Darrell Thompson is scheduled to make the start for the Hornets.
"They've got a good combination of speed and power ... they pitch it really well and they don't have any weaknesses," Anderson said. "They're the best team that we've played thus far. We'll have to be on our 'A' game to compete with them."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com