ANITA — Tyler Peterson had to play accountant during Thursday’s district semifinal victory, but he has the situation he wanted going into Saturday’s district championship game against host CAM.
With the state’s new pitch-count rule in mind, Peterson juggled pitchers Jared Hensley, Kaleb Anderson and Aaron Schmitz in a combined two-hit 3-2 victory over Earlham Thursday.
Hensley threw 35 pitches, Anderson had 40 and Schmitz finished the final two innings with 28 pitches. That means all three — plus senior catcher Dawson Tullberg, who has a 2-1 record in 31 innings this season — are available to pitch Saturday. Each was under the threshold of 41 pitches that would have required more than the one day’s rest between Thursday’s and Saturday’s games.
Anderson had to leave with a 3-2 count on the first batter of the sixth inning, because he was one pitch from being forced to have two days rest (41 to 65 pitches). No pitcher can pitch more than 180 pitches in a week (10th-12th graders), so seemingly any of the Tiger pitchers could have lengthy outings Saturday.
Hensley is the ace of this balanced staff with a 3-0 record and 48 strikeouts in 41 innings, with 21 walks and 28 hits allowed. His ERA is 1.81. Opposing batters are hitting under .170 against him.
But, Peterson is not afraid to use any of his other veterans.
Anderson is 1-4 with 31 strikeouts in 27 innings and 28 hits allowed, with 11 walks. The opposition is hitting .241 against him.
Schmitz, a junior, is 2-0 with 37 strikeouts in 33 innings. He has allowed 20 hits and 14 walks with an opposing batting average of .158.
Tullberg, also valuable behind the plate, is a capable pitcher at 2-1 with 31 innings pitched, 35 strikeouts, 14 walks and 18 hits allowed. Opposing hitters are batting only .136.
The ERA of the entire Lenox pitching staff is 2.30 with 163 strikeouts in 156 innings.
Hensley said he was prepared to go the distance Thursday, but not surprised Peterson juggled the staff to work the pitch limit rule to the team’s favor on Saturday.
“Coach said to be ready to throw the whole game at first,” Hensley said. “Then we had a lead, so he said he’d bring me out and get the other two in there.”
That 2-0 lead evaporated in the fifth inning, but the Tigers prevailed 3-2 with Anderson and Schmitz pitching in relief. Peterson said he could have brought Hensley back to the mound, but he had confidence in his other pitchers.
“We really don’t have that true number one like you see on some team,” said Peterson, former Tiger catcher under coach Steve Westphal. “I do lean toward a couple of those seniors who have more starts behind them, but Aaron Schmitz is also one of those guys who is cool, calm and collected and does a good job for us. One reason I’m confident with Aaron out there is the defense we have behind him. Our middle infield with Anderson and Hensley is outstanding in those situations, and Tullberg is so important to us behind the plate.”
While CAM used junior ace Thomas Hensley for seven innings Thursday, leaving him unavailable Saturday, he would be rested for Tuesday’s substate if the Cougars should advance.
That leaves senior Marcus Daugherty or junior Nick Holste as the likely pitchers to shoulder the load Saturday against the Tigers. Daugherty is 2-1 with 18 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings and an ERA of 3.38. He has issued nine walks and allowed 22 hits with an opposing batting average of .244.
Holste is 7-1 with 48 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings. He has allowed 28 hits and issued 24 walks, with an ERA of 1.76 and opposing batting average of .158.
Sophomore Mitchell Williamson is 3-0 in 25 1/3 innings, an ERA of 4.42 and opposing average of .214. He has 22 strikeouts, 24 hits allowed and nine walks.
Hensley said not many Class 1A teams have the pitching depth of the Tigers.
“Really, those other three guys throw as good as I do,” Hensley said. “We’re really lucky to have three seniors and a junior that can pitch like that. Aaron is good at mixing his timing up, and he can throw hard. Having Dawson catching helps us, makes our defense solid. It’s game by game now and we’ll use whoever we have to so we can keep going.”
“If everyone is on their game Saturday, we should be OK,” Schmitz added.