Posted Online: April 16, 2013, 9:39 pm

Three-run first, stout pitching helps Spartans top A-W in key LTC matchup

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By Terry Duckett,

WOODHULL -- While they were happy to earn a crucial victory in the Lincoln Trail Conference baseball race, the Ridgewood Spartans kept their enthusiasm muted.

Using a three-run first inning and a stout pitching performance from the trio of Noah Shannon, Ridge Greenman and Nick Ragan, the Spartans held off Annawan-Wethersfield 4-2 to move to 8-0 in the LTC, taking a half-game lead on Mercer County, whose Tuesday game at Galva-Williamsfield was postponed.

"They are gaining confidence,'' Ridgewood coach Seth Spivey said of his 12-2 club. "But the best thing today was how humble they were. They were talking about how we've got to get Annawan-Wethersfield again (in the teams' Apr. 29 rematch at Annawan).''

With Ridgewood having not played in a week, Spivey admitted to feeling slightly apprehensive about how his club would fare against the Titans (9-3, 5-1 LTC).

"I was a little bit nervous about how we'd be, having not been on the field this long,'' he said, "but this is a veteran group, and they handled it well.''

Ridgewood had to dodge a bullet in the opening inning when Trey Hannam led off with a single, then used his speed to take an extra base and end up on third on Cody Phillips' sacrifice bunt. However, Shannon retired the next two Titans to get out of the jam.

The Spartans then jumped on A-W starter Matt Jenkins (2-1) for three first-inning runs. Following a one-out RBI single by Nate Humphrey (2-for-3), Jenkins was an out away from getting out of the inning relatively unscathed before Cole Colburn laced a two-run single to make it a 3-0 game.

"We said if we had the chance to tack on some runs early, we had to get them in,'' said Colburn. "I just tried to put the ball in play, and do what I could to win the ballgame.''

Ridgewood made it 4-0 on Dusty Werner's one-out, second-inning solo home run. After that point, though, Jenkins was able to hold the line, allowing just five hits despite scattering six walks.

"Matt just wasn't totally on his game,'' said Annawan-Wethersfield coach Jeff Parsons. "But he's a great pitcher, and if you don't get to him early, you'll not get to Matt. Once he settles in, he's solid.''

The Titans tried to mount a comeback against Shannon, plating a third-inning unearned run and then closing the gap to 4-2 when Hannam (3-for-4) led off the top of the fifth with a home run. However, Shannon allowed just three hits in five innings to move to 4-0. Greenman worked a 1-2-3 sixth, then Ragan finished up for his first save.

Parsons is confident Tuesday's loss won't hurt A-W's bid to repeat as LTC champs.

"We knew this was going to be a good game,'' he said, "and all it does is make our next game with them that much more important.''