May 9—The handcuffs came off Josh Pyne on Saturday, which proved to be an opportune time for his Linton High School baseball team.
Coming within one batter — and the pitch-count rule — of a complete game, the senior righthander shut down Class A's second-ranked Shakamak for a 4-0 win in a game between the last two unbeaten teams in the SouthWestern Indiana Athletic Conference.
Pyne's ankle injury, suffered during the Greene County Invitational in the first week of January, had received plenty of attention during the basketball season. What was pooh-poohed at the time was the wrist he landed on while suffering that injury, but later a fracture was revealed.
"He was in a splint [until recently]," coach Matt Fougerousse of the Miners said Saturday. "[Doctors] didn't want him throwing or hitting. This was just his third pitching outing . . . he's still not 100% [which contributed to the Miners' sub-.500 start to the season]."
"I was [limited to] 60 pitches before this," said Pyne, who will be heading to Indiana University next season. And although he hopes to be an infielder in college, it might be difficult to ignore the seemingly effortless, low-90s fastball he showed on Saturday.
"Good velocity, good breaking ball, good command of the strike zone," said Shakamak coach Jeremy Yeryar after the game when asked about Pyne. "You can't take anything away from him."
Shakamak has pitching of its own, however, and after giving up a homer to Linton's Jaydan Miller on the second pitch of the game, Peyton Yeryar of the Lakers settled in and put up zeroes of his own. Of the 10 singles in the game, in fact, five never left the infield.
The Lakers aren't intimidated by velocity, and started to make headway against Pyne. With two out in the bottom of the third, a single by Logan Burris and a walk to Ethan Burdette put two runners on with two out, and in the fourth Brady Yeryar (both Peyton and Brady are Jeremy's cousins) beat out a one-out infield hit and Brevon Fulford walked with two out.
Both times the Miner defense came through — first baseman Nathan Frady digging a low throw for the third out in the third, and Pyne knocking down Trevor Ellingsworth's grounder for the third out in the fourth — and in the fifth a brief spell of wildness cost Peyton Yeryar.
"Horrible at-bats," said coach Yeryar afterward, as his team stranded two in the fifth and sixth innings too.
Jaxon Walker of the Miners was hit by a pitch with one out in the top of the fifth, and Frady walked. Jamison Fields got a bunt down and was rewarded with an infield hit when a Shakamak infielder failed to cover first base, so the bases were loaded with Miller up and Pyne on deck.
Peyton Yeryar fanned Miller, who was 2 for 2 to that point, for the second out, and got two quick strikes on Pyne. "He fooled me," Pyne said later in describing that at-bat, but the count eventually got to 3 and 2.
"I knew with the bases loaded he was not throwing an off-speed pitch," Pyne said. "I just shortened up and was patient. I said 'I've got to do something for myself and my team,' " and the result was a liner over third base that brought home two runs.
"He should have been out of the inning," coach Yeryar said after the game, looking back to the uncovered base. "Mental things like that will get you."
Oscar Pegg relieved Peyton Yeryar in the sixth and immediately hit Bracey Breneman with a pitch — coach Yeryar was looking through his scorebook after the game, calculating how much extra running the walks and hit batters will cost the Lakers — and that became the final run of the game when Japheth House sacrificed and Frady hit a two-out RBI single.
"Jaydan Miller set the tone [with the leadoff homer]," Fougerousse said after the game. "Give Peyton a lot of credit. He did a nice job, but we got some big two-out RBIs and we got our bunts down."
"Japheth and Jamison Fields got down bunts and that was huge," Pyne agreed.
Pyne entered the ninth inning having thrown 111 pitches, and used eight to retire Shakamak's first two batters. At 119, he could finish Peyton Yeryar's at-bat but he walked him, and Luke McDonald came in to get the last out. McDonald, a sophomore, already has a no-hitter and two two-hitters, so the Miners don't lack pitching the rest of the season.
"We needed to focus on Shakamak and North Daviess [a conference opponent next week], and we came out today focused and ready to play," Pyne said.
"A good win," Fougerousse said. "This was a big conference game, and now we still have an opportunity to win [the SWIAC] outright."
"It's big for [the Miners], having [Pyne] back at full strength," Jeremy Yeryar said. As far as his Lakers are concerned?
"This will open some eyes, I believe," he said.