MERRILLVILLE | Several major league scouts watched Andrean ace Zach Ryan’s first few innings on Monday afternoon before exiting.
Those that didn’t stay missed a nice game.
Ryan pitched out of several tough spots and struck out 10 batters in a four-hit complete game as undefeated Times No. 2 Andrean played without head coach Dave Pishkur but won its first nail-biter of the season 4-3 over rival No. 6 Griffith.
In a crisply played Northwest Crossroads Conference between highly competitive rivals, the team that capitalized on the other’s mistakes was the victor.
Andrean (6-0, 3-0) trailed 1-0 on an unearned run scored by Brett Brinkley in the first. The 59ers then tied it at 1-1 in the second and scored three runs -- two unearned due to a pair of Panther errors -- in the fourth inning to go ahead for good 4-1.
“This was a big team effort,” Ryan said. “It showed that we’re a team that will come together. This is a great group of kids, and we all like each other.”
The Georgia Tech recruit couldn’t help but see the scouts from the Braves, Blue Jays and Phillies organizations watching.
“You have to notice, but I just do my best,” Ryan said. “I felt I had pretty good control. I was hitting my spots with the off-speed stuff and fastball.”
Ryan scored Andrean’s first run after singling and coming home on Jeremy Briggs’ bases-loaded walk. Briggs singled to drive in Andrean’s third run in the fourth.
Panthers ace Jesse Smith allowed two earned runs in a complete-game, eight-hit effort that included seven strikeouts and two walks.
“(Smith) had good stuff,” Briggs said. “It was important to get up there and be aggressive and do the job.”
Jimmy Tarala had a pair of doubles for Andrean. His other plate appearance was a well-executed sacrifice bunt in the sixth, and he ended the game with a diving stop for an unassisted putout at first base with a runner on base in the seventh.
“When you play tight games like these, you look for anything,” said Andrean assistant coach Ryne Pishkur, whose father Dave stayed home feeling ill.
“To get big hits from a spot starter in the No. 6 spot is great. It’s nice to be in a close game and get a feel for it because you learn a lot from those kinds of games.”
Griffith (3-3, 2-1) gleaned experience, crucial for a young ball club.
“I thought we played well,” Griffith coach Brian Jennings said. “It’s one game out of 30, and it was just one of those days where you had to make routine plays. Three runs with Zach on the mound is a lot to overcome.”
Freshman shortstop Kody Hoese had a two-run single in the fifth inning to close the gap to 4-3. However, after a walk and a hit batter, Griffith left the bases loaded to end the inning.
“You’ve got to have somebody step up and get the big hit,” Jennings said. “(Andrean) just got one more big play than we did.”