CENTRAL POINT — Central Point pitcher Blake Fahndrich struck out 12 and limited Ashland to five hits in a complete-game effort, leading the Comets to an 8-1 American Legion A victory Wednesday at Anhorn Field.
Playing their first game of the season, the Pilots manufactured a run in the first but were held in check the rest of the way by the hard-throwing right-handed Fahndrich, who seemed to get stronger as the game went on, striking out five batters in the last two innings. The junior-to-be issued two walks — both in the first inning — and after his shaky first inning allowed only two Ashland baserunners to advance beyond first base.
"I think we just came out a little bit flat today," Ashland coach Josh Hamik said. "Our energy was just kind of (low)."
Ashland starting pitcher Jack Carroll surrendered four runs on five hits and five walks in a rough three-inning outing and was tagged with the loss. The 6-foot-4 lefty struck out three, but walked the first three batters he faced in the third, paving the way for a two-run rally that gave the Comets a 4-1 cushion.
"It's kind of (Carroll's) thing," Hamik said. "He needs to work on release points and getting first-strike pitches over. It's just about (finding) the rhythm and getting back on track."
First baseman Anthony Martin went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, and second baseman Taylor Pardee was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI to lead the Comets (3-0) at the plate.
For Ashland, third baseman Eric Carlson was 1-for-3 and drove home Ashland's only run of the game when his ground-out scored Carter Glick from third.
Central Point tied the game in the bottom of the first on Fahndrich's RBI single to left, and took the lead for good in the second when No. 9 hitter Zack Lathrop singled to right to drive home Pardee from third.
The Comets needed only one hit to tack on two more runs in the third thanks to Carroll's struggles, an Ashland error and a passed ball that allowed Fahndrich to score. Martin's run-scoring double to deep left made it 5-1 in the fourth, and the Comets tacked on three more in the sixth — two on Martin's single to left.
Ashland sophomore-to-be James Whelan surrendered four runs — one earned — on three hits while striking out three in three solid innings of relief.
"(Whelan) showed that he can handle the pressure," Hamik said.
The Pilots gained some early momentum which they couldn't sustain when Fahndrich issued Glick and Ian Alpenia back-to-back walks to start the game. They both moved up a base on Bryce Rogan's sacrifice bunt, and Glick came home on Carlson's soft grounder to short. Ashland right fielder Ryan Bottimore followed with a comebacker to the mound, which Fahndrich handled to end the Pilots' most productive inning.
"The umpire had a low-outside zone and he was consistent with calling that and we didn't make the adjustments," Hamik said. "Once we go through the order the first time and we see that that's going to be the zone we've got to get in on it and make sure we're protecting that outside. We had some guys looking at one strike, two strike and then not protecting on the outside corner. (Fahndrich) was hitting his spots and his slider was working, and he looked really sharp today."
Ashland 100 000 0 — 1 5 4
Central Point 112 103 x — 8 8 1
Ja. Carroll, Whelan (4) and Glick; Fahndrich and Aplin. W — Fahndrich (2-0). L — Carroll (0-1). 2B — C: Martin, Pardee.