BURLINGTON — The Pekin High School baseball team has some history with Notre Dame pitcher Mitchell Brent, and most of it isn’t good.
Yet, they had some moments against the Nikes’ ace Wednesday.
The Panthers coaxed six walks out of the hard-throwing Brent, but they couldn’t get a clutch hit during a 5-0 SEI Superconference crossover setback at Winegard Field.
Brent no-hit Pekin two years ago in a district game, and needed 111 pitches over six innings to one-hit the Panthers in this contest. Brent’s 10 strikeouts, combined with the walks, helped drive up the pitch count.
“He’s a good pitcher. I think his arm was a little sore, but he lives down in the zone, and that’s a great thing for him,” Pekin coach Curtis Reighard said. “We didn’t adjust to what was called. We beat ourselves quite a bit.”
The Panthers had three errors in the contest, some of them costly. Notre Dame scored what would prove to be the winning run on an error in the second inning when Ryle Koenig crossed the plate on a misplayed fly ball in right field.
The Nikes finally got to Pekin pitcher Caleb Comstock the third time through the order. Notre Dame struck for four runs in the inning, with Nicholas Skerik doubling in a run, and Trento Blythe singling to right field to bring in another.
Comstock struck out four in five innings of work, allowing just five hits.
“Caleb throws a lot of offspeed and breaking stuff, and he got a little tired. That’s a good-hitting team,” Reighard said. “We don’t have a 1, 2 or a No. 3 pitcher. We kind decide who to put out there based on who the opponent is. Caleb did a nice job tonight.”
Comstock was the only Pekin hitter to scratch out a hit against the Nikes. He singled hard off Brent with two outs in the fifth inning, but the rest of the base runners reached on walks, and no one got past second base. Even in the seventh, Pekin drew walks to start the inning against Koenig, and there was no advancement as he retired three straight hitters.
“We’re a better hitting team than we showed tonight,” Reighard said of five called third strikes his team took. “Those hurt because they ruin at-bats and they ruin innings. The kids were getting frustrated. We really preach taking swings when the ball is in the strike zone and not chasing bad pitches.”
Brent doesn’t just throw hard, but his breaking pitches are more than most hitters can handle.
“His curve ball is a 12-6 and it’s a hard one. It just falls from the ceiling,” he said. “How many 14- or 15-year-olds have seen something like that?
“We just gave them too many crucial outs tonight,” Reighard said. “We’ve got kind of a young team, so that’s going to happen.”
Chad Drury can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury