EVERETT — Joe McBride didn’t make it easy on himself.
But with some key strikeouts and help from his defense, the Cascade junior kept pitching his way out of trouble.
McBride escaped a pair of early jams with minimal damage and tossed 6 2/3 strong innings to lead the first-place Bruins baseball team to a 2-1 win over visiting Monroe in a Wesco 4A clash Tuesday afternoon.
“His ability to pitch out of jams was the difference today,” Cascade coach David Benson said. “They had a lot of opportunities with runners in scoring position to extend the lead or take the lead back, but we were able to make the plays when they counted, and Joe executed the pitches.”
McBride allowed only one run and five hits while stranding nine Monroe base-runners, including six in scoring position. The right-hander struck out seven batters, walked one and hit two.
“He’s done a great job this year,” Benson said. “He floods the zone with multiple pitches and different arm slots — which is huge — and he’s really good at keeping hitters off-balance.”
McBride came within one strike of a complete game, but was forced to exit after reaching the 105-pitch limit. It was the second consecutive outing where he’s fallen one out short of a complete game because of the pitch-count limit.
With the tying run on third base, lefty reliever Jayden Talt recorded a three-pitch save, firing a called third strike into catcher Josh Murphy’s glove for a game-ending punchout.
“He’s a big-time competitor in big-time situations, and I trust giving him the ball,” Benson said of Talt. “… It’s nice to have that guy in the back end of your (bullpen) that you can trust to go to in any situation and get the job done.”
With the victory, Cascade (11-4 overall, 6-1 Wesco 4A) remained atop the conference standings with a half-game lead over second-place Jackson. Monroe (10-5, 4-3) dropped into a third-place tie with Mount Vernon after the defeat.
Monroe ace Ryan Lynch took the loss, despite another strong performance in his exceptional sophomore campaign. The hard-throwing right-hander pitched five innings, allowing one earned run and four hits. He struck out four batters and walked none.
Lynch has a 0.59 earned-run average in 35 2/3 innings pitched this season, with 50 strikeouts and just three walks.
“Today he just didn’t have his best stuff, and still gave us really five quality innings and kept us right in the ballgame,” Monroe coach Eric Chartrand said.
The Bearcats struck early, putting McBride and the Bruins in a jam from the get-go.
On the game’s very first pitch, McBride plunked Monroe’s leadoff batter. On the game’s second pitch, Kegan Velie hit a grounder that bounced off the third-base bag and into shallow left field for a double. Luke Klein, the ensuing batter, then lined a run-scoring single into left field to give the Bearcats a quick 1-0 lead.
Then after a Klein stolen base put runners on second and third with no outs, more potential trouble was brewing for McBride. But the Cascade starter remained cool under pressure, striking out the next two batters and inducing an inning-ending groundout to escape the jam without further damage.
McBride found himself in another tight situation in the second inning after loading the bases with one out. But once again, he escaped with a strikeout and an inning-ending groundout to keep it a one-run game.
“That’s a really good baseball team, and if you don’t take advantage of your opportunities, you’re going to get beat,” Chartrand said. “And that’s what happened. We had a chance early to score some runs … and we just didn’t take advantage of it.”
The Bruins got on the board in the fourth inning with back-to-back doubles off Lynch. Brody Larsen crushed a leadoff two-bagger over the left fielder’s head, then scored on Jacob Sesso’s line-drive double down the right-field line to even the game at 1-1.
Cascade’s Jackson Ramstead led off the bottom of the fifth with another two-bagger, clobbering an opposite-field ground-rule double into the left-center field gap. Ramstead then came around to score on a pair of Monroe errors — the latter on an overthrow from left field that sailed over the catcher’s head — to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
“We knew we had to attack,” Benson said. “(Lynch) was going to be in or around the zone all day. He rarely walks people, so we knew we had our work cut out for us. … We had to (get) our pitches early, and we were able to put some good swings on some balls.”
Cascade’s pitching and defense did the rest, as the Bruins allowed only one run for the sixth consecutive game.
“We pitch pretty well and we play really good team defense,” Benson said. “And our hitters have done a good job really buying into our philosophy.”