The new pitch count rule has caused problems for a lot of baseball teams this spring, especially with the regular season waning into its final week.
But Hammond hasn't had to worry about such problems with starting pitcher Ryan Ridgell, whose pitch efficiency was on display once again in Tuesday's five-inning gem against Oakland Mills at home.
The senior needed just 57 pitches and faced two more than the minimum in a 10-0 shutout of the Scorpions. He struck out six, walked none and allowed two hits to help the Golden Bears (6-7 county, 6-7 overall) win their third straight and move to within one game of a .500 record.
"I wouldn't say it's my most efficient game," Ridgell said. "I'm throwing strikes early in the count and getting guys down early in counts and that's really my goal."
Hammond coach Casey Medairy marvels at the way his senior attacks the strike zone. He said Ridgell is one of the most efficient pitchers he's ever seen.
"Last two outings he threw 72 pitches and 73 pitches in seven-inning complete games. So in his last three starts this is the most he's thrown per inning," Medairy said. "It's really impressive and when the team sees that they back him up. It keeps the team in the game."
On the other side, efficiency was the biggest problem for Oakland Mills (3-11, 4-13). Starting pitcher Thomas Kato walked eight batters, including three straight with the bases loaded in the third inning, and needed 98 pitches to get eight outs in his first varsity start.
But with the playoffs a little more than a week away, Scorpions coach Matt Sillers needed somebody to eat some innings to alleviate some pressure on their usual starters.
"We had trouble throwing strikes and that's what cost us, but it was his first start on varsity and really his first time getting some serious time pitching," he said. "So I thought for what he did in a situation where I needed him to pitch today, I thought he did his best and I thought he did a pretty good job for not having start a game on varsity."
Kato balked in the second inning, allowing Ramel Washington (1-for-1, 2 BB) to score the first run of the game before he lost his command in the third. JJ Woodson (2-for-3, BB, SB), Washington and Landon Phan singled, Joseph Sarich, Antonio Figliozzi, Darrin Allen and Gavin Walls walked, and the first six base runners scored before recording the first out with a 7-0 lead.
Three more walks, including another with the bases loaded, and an error in the bottom of the fifth inning set up Figliozzi's bases-loaded double that scored two and ended the game.
Medairy said he especially liked how the top half of his lineup approached their at-bats.
"Anybody that had a walk today had a good at-bat because we're not getting anxious. They're being patient and looking for their pitch," he said. "I can't pick out any one guy. It doesn't happen often but everyone had a quality at-bat."
Sillers said Oakland Mills, which beat Hammond, 4-3, on opening day, has been playing better baseball than their record may indicate. They have lost 11 of their last 12 county games but knocked around Long Reach, 11-1, on April 27 and played first-place Reservoir to a 3-0 loss on Monday.
"We've been playing good baseball but I've got to make sure all my guys are healthy and ready to go," Sillers said. "It's tough when guys are sore and you don't want to risk them being out there and getting hurt right before the playoffs start. Hopefully by the time the playoffs come around we'll be ready to go."
Hammond will play a double-header against Mt. Hebron on Wednesday while Oakland Mills will host Marriotts Ridge.
Hammond (6-7 county, 6-7 overall) — 10, Oakland Mills (3-11, 4-13) — 0 (5 innings)
123 456 7 R-H-E
OM 000 00x x 0-2-3
Ha 016 03x x 10-7-1
2B: Ha — Antonio Figliozzi
WP: Ha — Ryan Ridgell; LP: OM — Thomas Kato