RICHMOND – Marengo starting pitcher Aiden Smith brought his A-game to the ballpark during Tuesday's Kishwaukee River Conference game against Richmond-Burton.
After allowing a two-out run in the bottom of the first inning, the junior right-hander retired 19 of the next 22 batters he faced, as the Indians (5-9, 2-5 KRC) held on for a 5-2 win in the first of a three-game series between the teams.
Smith's complete-game victory was his first of the season, as he struck out five without allowing a walk.
"This was probably the first game all year where I've really pitched to the standard I know I'm capable of," Smith said. "My velocity was good today, so I tried to mix that with my changeup, which moves a lot, to keep their hitters off-balance."
Hayden Christiansen's two-out bloop RBI single gave the Rockets (7-9, 4-3) an early 1-0 first-inning lead. But after that, Smith was locked in. He allowed a leadoff single in the third, then a leadoff double in the fifth, which led to a second run scoring on a botched rundown. But that was it.
"I don't think we did anything wrong at the plate against Aiden," R-B coach Mike Giese said. "He was just locked in on the mound. You've gotta tip your cap and give credit where it's due sometimes."
Smith helped his own cause in a big way at the plate, too. He was 3 for 4 with two RBIs. The first one was a game-tying, two-out single in the top of the third. In his next at-bat, Smith drove home a run with an infield single. That also came with two outs.
"It seemed like our guys came up with clutch plays whenever we needed them to," Marengo coach Josh Maas said. "Our ability to execute when it mattered most was a huge factor out there."
Senior first baseman Josh Streu (2 for 4) extended Marengo's lead to 3-1, one batter after Smith's hit, with an RBI single of his own to right field. Streu also played well defensively, snagging three hard-hit balls that each resulted in backhanded grabs.
"First base kind of became the hot corner there for a while," Streu said with a laugh.
"When guys make plays like Josh did defensively today, it gives me a big boost of confidence on the mound," Smith added. "I was pumped when he made a few of those plays."
The Indians led, 3-2, after five innings, then added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on an bases-loaded bunt by Ryan Willwers and a bases-loaded walk by Andrew Erbstoesser.
All nine Marengo starters reached base safely at least once.
R-B starting pitcher Luke Uhwat did an admirable job keeping his team in the game. Uhwat allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over five innings, struck out five and walked one. But the Rockets committed three errors and had a baserunning mistake in the sixth inning that might have cost them a run.
"We didn't do enough to help ourselves win," Giese said. "Too many mistakes. They had their No. 1 starter going. We had our No. 1 pitcher out there. Both guys did well. We just left too many outs on the field."
The Rockets travel to Marengo for Game 2 of the series at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"We just have to regroup, bounce back and play the way we know we're capable of to try and even the series," Giese said.
STAR OF THE GAME
Aiden Smith, Marengo, jr., P
Smith tossed a complete game to pick up his first win of the season.
6: Innings in which Smith faced four batters or fewer.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
"My first start freshman year was a win against R-B, so it was nice to finally pick up another one," Smith said. "Especially since they're the defending KRC champs."
Marengo 5, Richmond-Burton 2
Marengo 001 020 2 – 5 10 1
Richmond-Burton 100 010 0 – 2 4 3
WP: Smith (7IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, 5K). LP: Uhwat (5IP, 5H, 3R, 2ER, 1BB, 6K).
Top hitters–Marengo: Smith 3-4 (2 RBI), Streu 2-4 (RBI), Landon Oine 1-3 (Double, BB, RBI), Erbstoesser 1-2 (RBI, 2 BB), Justin Oine 1-2 (2 BB, SB). Richmond-Burton: Christiansen 1-2 (RBI), Taylor 1-3 (Double), Lillge 1-3 (Double), Duncan 1-2.