Freshman's four-hitter lets Eagles soar, 2-1 Ochsner wins 4th game for No. 11 Centennial

April 17, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Nate Ochsner of league-leading, No. 11-ranked Centennial (9-2 overall, 8-1 league) continued his amazing freshman season by defeating Mount Hebron on a four-hitter yesterday, 2-1.

The lanky 6-foot-2 right-hander, now 4-0, was in trouble the first three innings but each time produced a strikeout to end the inning.

The Vikings (6-3, 6-3) stranded seven runners in those three innings and 10 for the game, as they sorely lacked the clutch hit and ended a five-game winning streak that had put them into a second-place tie with Wilde Lake.

Ochsner's defense helped him out of a crucial situation in the sixth inning, after Mount Hebron loaded the bases with no outs.

Ochsner then retired one batter on a force out from first baseman Jamie McDonald to catcher Matt Deuchler. After a wild pitch scored a run, he intentionally walked pinch-hitter Randy Zwitch to load the bases.

Centennial second baseman John Tokasz then made a back-handed catch of a high bouncer up the middle and turned it into an inning-ending double-play that prevented the tying run from scoring.

Had that ball gone through the infield, the Vikings would have scored twice and taken the lead. Mount Hebron began the inning with a lead-off walk to Brian Cudzilo, and singles by Todd Merkle and Tim Odachowski.

Mount Hebron started its No. 1 pitcher, senior Brian Picker, who pitched a six-hitter, walked one and struck out two. He allowed more than one runner an inning only in the first inning.

That's when he gave up a two-out double to Denny Chapman, an RBI single to Jamie McDonald and a ground-rule double to Ryan Barwick. An error on a routine grounder allowed the game-winning run to score.

"I didn't even expect to make varsity this season," Ochsner said. "But the coach knew a lot about me and liked my pitching. My fastball was my best pitch today, and I had a lot of help from my defense. I tired in the fifth and sixth innings but came back strong in the seventh.

"Our scoring the two runs in the first inning really helped me. I was nervous. This was the biggest game I've pitched."

Ochsner walked six, struck out five and allowed five hits.

"I said before the season that Ochsner would be our No. 2 pitcher, and I've never kept a freshman pitcher before," said Centennial coach Ron Martin. "He's not overpowering but keeps batters off balance, and nothing seems to rattle him. I didn't think he'd pitch this well today. He walked more than normal, because there was a small strike zone for both teams."

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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