TOLEDO — "It was a game where two pitchers were at the top of their game," said WSS coach Justin Hunt, a 2002 Mattoon graduate. "Brennyn Cutts is probably the best arm we are going to see all year."
WSS freshman Gavin Wernsing, a southpaw, allowed just three infield hits with one walk and eight strikeouts, but suffered the loss as Cutts, a sophomore, didn't allow a hit in his five innings of work. Reid Mathenia came in and threw the last two for the Pirates, who won 2-0.
"That was by far the best pitcher we have seen this year," said Cumberland coach Mark Jackley, a former Mattoon coach. "I had heard a couple of things about him from opponents and he is as good as advertised. For a freshman, I was really impressed with the job that he did."
The game, played at renovated Toledo American Legion 764 Field, took just 90 minutes to play on a day with the wind blowing in at 20 miles per hour. Only four hits were in the game and all of them were infield hits.
The Pirates, who won their 13th straight game, improved to 13-2., while the young Hatchets team that starts five freshmen, two sophomores and two seniors, fell to 5-6.
"It is a nice accomplishment for these guys to real off 13 wins in a row," said Jackley. A majority of those wins we have played really solid baseball. We keep building to the end of the season and hope we can get into a regional (Class 1A) championship and compete and have a chance to play in a sectional. That is my goal."
While Jackley had plenty of success at Mattoon coaching the Green Wave to 12 regional championships, two sectional titles and a fourth-place finish in Class AA (under the two-class system in 1997), the Pirates have never won a regional.
Cumberland scored a run in the second when Brayson Shew led off with an infield hit. Justin Brown reached on a fielder's choice as Shew was forced out at second. Shew stole second and it was one of five stolen bases in the game for the Pirates. Shew advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out by Ross Hemmen, who drove in both runs in the game.
Wernsing got out of a jam with runners on second and third with no outs in the third with a strikeout, a fielder' choice when the WSS shortstop Logan Greuel fielded a grounder and threw to the catcher, Sam Vonderheide for the tag. With runners on second and third Wernsing got the final out as he fielded a comebacker and threw to the first baseman, Graham Kasey.
The final run scored in the fourth when Shew reached on an error, stole second and third and scored on a one-out bunt that went into the air and landed halfway between home plate and the pitcher's mound for an infield hit.
"We took advantage of base stealing and the suicide squeeze," said Jackley who was 679-273-4 in 29 years at Mattoon. "We worked since day one on our short game and our base running and this is game that it really paid off because their kid was tough today."
The Hatchets had a runner on second with one out in the fourth when Cutts struck out the next batter and got the final out on a ball fielded just inside the line by the catcher, Justin Brown, who threw to first to end the inning.
WSS's biggest threat came in the final inning when Riley Walden walked with one out and Kasey reached on an error. Cutts, who had moved to first, sprinted to his left and made a catch of a foul ball for the second out and the game ended with Mathenia earning a strikeout.
"We were on the verge of scratching a couple of runs across and getting back into it, but it just didn't go our way," said Hunt, whose team is to travel to Ramsey Wednesday. "They had to play small ball to scratch in both runs. Our defense let us down a little bit. We have not seen a guy throw that hard and we just couldn't make the adjustment. I am proud of our guys today and how hard they fought."
Cumberland entered the game with a sparkling 1.71 earned run average as a team and a .324 batting average.
"We have had good starting pitching all year," said Jackley, whose team is to play host to Tuscola Thursday in another non-conference game. "It was good to play in a close game (Cumberland averaged a 10-3 victory prior to the game) like this. Especially when you have runners in scoring position and you see the importance of each out especially the last six outs and that is where this program needs to move forward and learn how to win those close ball games. It is nice to be able to win a game with the little things that don't really show up in the box score."