Milford wins fifth in row

MILFORD – The Milford High School baseball team was in need of an edge at the plate and it got just that when Bryce Walker stepped up to bat with a couple of runners on.

Walker drove in the only two runs of the game and pitcher Ryan Britton struck out 12 batters to elevate the Spartans to a 2-0 Division II win over St. Thomas on Monday. It was the fifth consecutive win for Milford.

Walker broke the scoreless tie for the Spartans (5-1) in the bottom of the fourth inning with two runners on when he cracked the first offering from Saints pitcher Ryan Mitchell (six strikeouts) into shallow center field that plopped to the grass between the Saints outfielders. Milford had produced just two base runners through the first three innings before that.

“For my first at bat, (Mitchell) started me out with a curve, so I was expecting that for the first pitch,” Walker said. “I was just ready to hit out there. He was throwing steady strikes to everyone and I just hit it.”

Walker’s hit proved to be a clutch one, as it came with two outs and runners at second and third. Sawyer Trask led off the frame with a hit and went to second on a Saints’ error at first base. He was then was advanced to third on Seth Hopkins’ double to left field.

“We’ve wanted them to be more aggressive,” said Milford coach Steve Claire on his team’s hitting. “We have had success getting base runners when we’re jumping on the first few pitches, so the consistent theme is to not let good pitches go by.”

Britton complemented Walker’s effort in the ensuing frames with some clutch pitching of his own to protect what the Spartans had gained. The Saints (1-2) loaded the bases in the sixth and seventh innings, but Britton pulled his team out the jam each time.

In the top of the sixth, Ryan McKenna and Kevin Gould cranked out a hit each and Jared Brescia joined them with a walk. Britton then got J.D. Funk to ground out to the mound for the inning’s final out preserving the Milford lead.

“The most important thing was Britton on the mound,” Claire said. “He’s been consistently good at the start of the season. He had good command and made pitches when he needed to.”

St. Thomas nearly pulled it off again in the seventh when Brandon Avella and Mitchell produced hits with McKenna filling the final spot on base via a walk. Ryan Bennett (2 for 4) was poised to spoil the Spartans’ afternoon, but went down looking for the game’s final out.

“I thought we battled against a very good pitcher,” said St. Thomas coach Marc Schoff. “Unfortunately, this is only our third game and we’ve got to get better in regards to defense.”

Milford tallied just four hits and St. Thomas seven, but the Spartans were able to make the most of their base runners as the Saints stranded 10.

“We just happened to get a clutch hit when we needed to,” said Claire. “The game could have gone either way.”