Facing a district opponent gets Bobby Towne an extra “boost of adrenaline” and Monday night’s near no-hitter pushed his shutout streak to 26 innings this season.
The Walker Valley ace struck out 13, including a half dozen straight at one point, and allowed just a one-out single in the final at bat to claim a 2-0 shutout over county rival Bradley Central on the Bears’ home diamond.
“Everything was working for me tonight,” expressed Towne after his fourth complete-game victory in as many starts. “I was throwing strikes and able to keep them off balance. I had some good defensive plays behind me.”
“This was another memorable outing by Bobby,” proclaimed Mustang head coach Joe Shamblin after his team won its sixth of seven District 5-AAA games this season. “He’s come through for us in a big way this season. I love it when he’s on the mound.”
Towne not only dominated on the mound, but provided punch at the plate, driving in the game’s first run with a double and later beating out a bunt single for two of Walker Valley’s five hits.
Tonight Bradley (10-8-1, 1-4 District 5-AAA) will make the trip to the north end of the county to complete the home-and home series at Walker Valley’s (8-5, 6-1) Mike Turner Field with first pitch slated for 7 p.m.
Living up to the expected pitchers’ duel between Towne and Bear ace Jordan Whitmire, the two hurlers faced the minimum number of batters in the first two innings.
Walker Valley junior Caleb Longley did lead off the top of the second with a single, but was gunned down by Bear catcher Caleb Pippenger while trying to steal second.
Mustang designated hitter Jake Ward led off the third frame with a double just inside the line down in the left-field corner.
After Whitmire responded by striking out the next two batters, Towne, who is hitting over .400 with runners in scoring position, came to the plate and inside-outed a shot into short right field that got past a diving defender for a double of his own to plate Ward with what turned out to be the winning run.
After Towne struck out the side in the bottom of the frame, Chris Caffrey opened the fourth with a solid single up the middle. The lone error of the game and a groundout allowed Caffrey to move around to third, where he scored a few moments later on a wild pitch.
Striking out nine of the first 11 batters, Towne allowed the first Bear base runner when he plunked senior Chase Wiseman with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Wiseman was stranded as the next batter grounded out.
After striking out the side again in the bottom of the fifth, Towne gave up a two-out walk to Bear leadoff man Brently White in the sixth.
The no-hitter and shutout were both in jeopardy when Bradley senior Dylan Johnston then stepped to the plate and cranked a deep shot to left that looked like it was going to be his third homer of the year, but without any wind blowing the ball died short of the fence and Mustang left fielder Matthew Simmons made a good catch on the warning track to end the inning.
Walker Valley got another defensive gem to open the bottom of the seventh when Wiseman slapped a hard shot toward the hole, but moving quickly to his right, Mustang shortstop Logan Longwith stabbed the ball and fired to first just in time to nip the runner.
“Simmons and Longwith made some big plays to save the no-hitter,” coach Shamblin praised. “We played good defense all the way around tonight.”
Despite the effort, the next Bear batter, senior Robbie Works, broke up the no-no with a solid single to left.
Towne got the next batter to hit right back to him and then the game ended with center fielder Bradley Smith squeezing the final out.
Yet to give up an earned run this season, Towne has allowed just nine hits and walked a dozen while striking out 39 in 26 innings of work.
Despite taking the loss, Whitmire (2-2) had another good outing, striking out seven and walking just one while scattering five hits in a complete-game effort. Only one of the Mustang runs were earned, which was just the third given up by Whitmire in just under 33 innings of work this season.
MUSTANGS 2, BEARS 0
Walker Valley 001 100 0 — 2 5 0
Bradley Central 000 000 0 — 0 1 1
WP: Bobby Towne (4-0) 7.0 IP, 13 Ks, 1 H, 1 BB, 1HBP, 0 ER. LP: Jordan Whitmire (2-2) 7.0 IP, 7 Ks, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 ER. 2B: Towne, Jake Ward (WV). RBIs: Towne (WV). Highlights: Towne 2-for-3, 2B, RBI. Records: Walker Valley 8-5, 6-1 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 10-8-1, 1-4 District 5-AAA.