By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
OZARK — Tuesday’s Game of the Week at US Ballpark in Ozark proved to live up the billing.
One way or another, the Eagles were going to emerge victorious, and it was the Purdy Eagles (8-1) playing balanced baseball as they defeated the Hartville Eagles, 11-2.
Purdy scored 11 runs on 15 hits and entered the tilt as the 10th-ranked team in Class 2 — and they played disciplined baseball throughout — living up to the top-10 state ranking.
The high-flying Eagles plated runs in each inning but the fourth — netting three runs in the third and sixth innings.
But, as impressive as the plate discipline was on this night, the starting pitching took center stage, as sophomore Andres Aldaba showed his ace-like attributes: holding the opposition to two runs (one earned) on nine hits — painting the black and heavily relying on his curveball to keep the opposition playing the guessing game, no matter the count.
“You have to give credit to our starting pitcher,” Purdy head coach Josh Hughes said of Aldaba. “He only gave up two runs. We had some mistakes behind him whenever they scored. Just being a sophomore and a big field, he just did a great job. He settled down and did a good job for us.”
With Aldaba cruising it was time for the offense to go to work.
First, Jake Brown drove in a pair on the double in the bottom of the first inning: setting the tone for the duration. Brown later scored two runs and concluded a perfect night at the dish, going 4-for-4.
Andrew Martinez connected for the RBI double in the second inning and the Eagles were soaring.
In the third inning, it was equal opportunity as Carl Hughlett converted the sacrifice fly, then a Hartville error plated the ensuing run, followed by Aldaba’s RBI double, which extended the lead to 6-1 — giving Aldaba some added cushion with which to work.
“He comes from a baseball family. His dad takes him all over the country and plays,” Hughes said of his hurler. “He missed most of his freshman year with an ACL (injury), and I think that kind of … he sat over here in the dugout for most of the year. Being off the field, maybe, gave him some drive.”
In the fourth and fifth innings, Hartville began to notch away some base hits.
But, again, Aldaba owned his composure.
This season marks year 14 for Hughes in the head-coaching role at Purdy, and one thing remains constant: his team’s philosophy to be aggressive at the plate and active on the base paths.
Both of which were evident in the win.
“That is just what we do. They come in as freshman, and if they haven’t already learned it, they better learn it quickly,” Hughes said. “We are going to take bases and are going to run.
We were able to steal some bases and hit-and-run. We have some guys hitting the ball really well right now.”
No matter the situation or inning, the Eagles kept their feet on the proverbial gas pedal, as Zane Brown drove in a run on the hard-hit double, and a passed ball minutes later allowed the Eagles to extend the lead, 8-2.
A sacrifice fly by Hughlett and a two-run single by Zane Brown in the sixth inning closed out the scoring.
On this evening, the offense was a perfect complement to Aldaba — who said he has one job: to throw strikes.
“I felt good. We have a good baseball team, and our defense is solid. My job out there is to just throw strikes and trust my defense and I did that today,” Aldaba said.
Aldaba was proactive in his approach: getting ahead of hitters and working his arsenal to fit the hitter, and not vice versa.
“It is a good feeling,” Aldaba said of his Purdy counterparts. “My defense is going to cover me no matter what. Hartville is a really tough opponent, and my mentality today was to just throw what my catcher was telling me to throw.”
Purdy improves to 8-1 on the season, with the lone loss (4-3) coming at the hands of the Monett Cubs.
Hartville drops to 5-4.