Special to the Grove Sun
KANSAS - Never underestimate the advantage of a pair of senior battery mates, on the mound and behind the plate. Such was the case Friday evening at Kansas’s Dee Neel Field as the Comets got a top rate complete game outing from Zac Carnes and a stellar defensive job from catcher C. J. Foreman, to knock off Gravette 2-0.
Thursday’s bright warm evening gave way to overcast and chilling winds for Friday’s action. And the blustery conditions tested both teams’ stamina and concentration, with the possible exception of Foreman and Carnes. The Comet right-hander zipped through the top of the first two innings with back-to-back three up, three down efforts.
Kansas left a runner aboard in the home half of the first. But Brett Odle led off the bottom of the second with a walk and moved up 90 feet when Dakota Watkins did the same. The Comets got the bases loaded when Gravette misplayed Alex Burnett’s infield grounder trying to cut down the lead runner. Following Cody Bright’s pop fly to the first baseman, Carnes picked up the game’s first RBI the hard way, when he was struck by the pitch to score Odle. Watkins picked up the game’s only other tally when a walk to Jared Lamont forced him home.
In the top of the third, Carnes had to pitch his way around a pair of errors on his infield. Gravette’s leadoff batter reached base on a mishandled routine ground ball to third. Carnes then fanned the Lions’ Jacob Gillespie and looked to be out of the inning on Quintin Parker’s one hopper to the shortstop. But, after forcing the runner at second, the low throw got away from the Comets’ first baseman.
Carnes got some defensive help from his catcher Foreman and centerfielder Cody Bright, who tracked down a long fly ball for the last out of the frame.
In the home half of the third, Gravette’s Josh Vanderpool took the hill in relief. Working quickly, the right hand throwing senior got the first pair of outs before walking Odle. Odle tried to steal second, but got no help from the batter and was gunned down for the third out.
Vanderpool gapped a ringing double with one out in the top of the fourth. But Carnes got himself out of another jam with a strikeout and another running catch by Bright in centerfield. In the Kansas half of the inning, Dakota Watkins led off with a single and advanced to second on Bright’s one-out base hit. Carnes advanced both runners into scoring position with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt.
It appeared that Lamont was going to cash in on the situation when he scorched a pitch to right field. But the strong wind held the ball aloft long enough for the Lion outfielder to bring it in.
The only other significant threat by Gravette came with two down in the fifth, when Gillespie and Parker rapped back-to-back singles. Both then advanced into scoring position on a double steal. But Carnes whiffed the Lion leadoff batter to escape unscathed. The Comet starter pitched around a two-out single in the sixth and an infield error in the seventh to preserve the complete game win.
Following the game, Comet Coach Bill Hix spoke to his pitcher’s performance, saying, “That’s as good a job of pitching as I’ve seen around here for awhile.”
On Saturday the Comets defeated Caney Valley 7-2 in their only game in a rain-shortened festival at Wyandotte.
The Comets were scheduled to be back in action Monday when they host Chouteau before heading to the Stilwell Tournament for the rest of the week.