By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Zach Wegmann kept telling himself one thing when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning against Regina on Thursday.
“When we get runners in scoring position I know just have to put the ball in play and see what happens,” Wegmann said. “I guess I just put the ball in play.”
Wegmann did more than just put the ball in play.
The Solon junior drove in the game-winning run by smacking a double to deep centerfield, lifting the Spartans to a 5-4 victory in eight innings.
Solon was leading 4-1 when the Regals rallied for two runs in the sixth inning and one in the seventh to force extra innings.
But instead of worrying about having let an opportunity slip away, Wegmann and his cohorts stayed focused on the task at hand.
“When you’re playing a rival like that, everyone is always real pumped up,” Wegmann said. “We kept the energy going.”
The fact that Regina was the opponent on Thursday helped the Solon players stay energized after they had surrendered the lead.
Wegmann would cherish getting a game-winning hit against any opponent. But to do it at the expense of Regina made the moment even sweeter.
“It’s always something to strive for when you’re playing a rival,” Wegmann said.
Solon improved to 2-1 on the young season, while Regina fell to 3-1.
“That’s a good ball club and they’re well coached,” Solon coach Keith McSweeney said of Regina. “It kind of had a tournament-feel game with that rivalry. “Even though the number one (pitchers) weren’t going against each other, both dugouts had energy and it was a lot of fun.”
Solon freshman Cam Miller threw like a No. 1 pitcher for much of Thursday’s game. The son of Solon football coach Kevin Miller allowed just four hits over six innings and had six strikeouts in his first start against Regina.
“I was pretty nervous because it’s a big rivalry game,” Miller said. “I just kind of do my thing and just focus on what I need to control.”
Miller kept the Regina batters off balance by changing speeds and by consistently throwing his curve ball for strikes, especially early in the game.
“I thought it was important so I could keep the batters on their toes,” Miller said of his curve ball. “I just wanted to make sure they weren’t hitting my fastball.”
McSweeney praised his young pitcher for rising to the occasion under a lot of pressure that comes whenever Solon and Regina compete in any sport.”
“He’s a competitor,” McSweeney said of Miller. “He doesn’t play like a ninth grader. But he certainly doesn’t pitch like one.
“The plan wasn’t to have him go that long. But his mechanics stayed clean and he didn’t lose any velocity. So we kind of road his back a little bit. He did a nice job of changing speeds, especially early.”
Junior Tyler Linderbaum had three hits for Solon and also pitched the last two innings in relief. He allowed an RBI double to Blake Berns that evened the score at 4-4 in the seventh inning, but then held the Regals scoreless in the eighth inning.
“I wasn’t worried,” Miller said. “I had trust in Tyler and his pitching and I knew that our bats would do well.”
Regina coach Jeff Pacha was proud of his team for battling back under difficult circumstances. The Regals had played a nine-inning game the night before.
“We had a late one last night,” Pacha said. “And that’s tough to do two nights in a row. That’s really tough to do. But (Solon) made plays. They made pitches. So they get all the credit.
“There are some things that we can clean up, but we played hard.”
Regina 001 002 10 – 4 6 0
Solon 012 100 01 – 5 9 2
Ryan Schott, Alex Meister (5), Wil Comer (8) and Trent Hoogerwerf; Cam Miller, Tyler Linderbaum (7) and Adam Bock.
W – Miller. L – Comer.
2B – Blake Berns (ICR), Zach Wegmann (SOL).