MONMOUTH — Cam Armstrong hit into a triple play in his second-to-last at-bat of Friday’s baseball game against rival Winthrop.
The Monmouth senior more than made up for that. On the mound, he pitched out of a jam in the top of the sixth and delivered a 1-2-3 top of the seventh as his pitch count creeped toward the maximum.
Then, when his turn in the batting order came around again in the bottom of the seventh, Armstrong singled to left-center field to drive home Hayden Fletcher and give the Mustangs to a 2-1 Mountain Valley Conference win at Chick Fields.
“It was a good feeling to hit the ball,” Armstrong said, “but everybody did their job today and everybody was getting hits, and it was good to get guys on base in front of me.”
Monmouth (6-0) coach Eric Palleschi said his team was without eight players due to COVID-19 quarantine, including some starters.
Armstrong’s single, his first hit of the game, came with two outs and Fletcher at second base. Fletcher got on with a single against Ramblers (2-2) relief pitcher Andrew Foster, who took the mound after starter Colby Emery reached his 110-pitch limit. Fletcher stole second to get into scoring position, and then he showed no hesitation in rounding third after Armstrong sent a Foster offering into the outfield.
It was a rare successful scoring opportunity for the Mustangs (6-0), who had runners in scoring position in every inning but didn’t score a run until the sixth.
“They just never felt out of it,” Palleschi said. “We knew it was going to be a close game. Colby does a good job, keeps you off balance. And we knew Cameron would keep us in the game. And we talked about it, ‘Let’s just stick around and see what happens at the end.’ And that’s what happens.”
Emery scattered four hits and two walks while striking out 11 in 6 2/3 innings pitched for Winthrop (2-2).
He got out of a two-on, no-out jam in the fifth when he made a diving catch of Armstrong’s popped-up bunt attempt. He then threw to first baseman Owen Foster for a second out, and then Foster tossed to shortstop Gavin Perkins at second base to complete a triple play.
“That was big,” Winthrop coach John Novak said. “I would have liked to see that energy come to the plate with it, get a couple more runs, but it’s baseball. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Winthrop scored first, in the top of the fourth. Emery led off with a double, moved to third two batters later on Braden Stubbert’s groundout, and scored on a wide throw to first on Tyler Shumway’s grounder.
The only run scored against Emery came in the sixth. A third strike to freshman Sam Calder was wild, allowing Calder to reach with one out. Calder moved to second on another wild pitch, then scored on Seth McKenney’s lined single to left to tie the game a 1-1.
Armstrong, who matched Emery with 11 strikeouts while allowing five hits, one walk and one hit batter, punched out at least one batter in each inning, including the final two of the seventh. He ended innings with strikeouts in the first, fifth, sixth and seventh.
“I don’t know, I was throwing like I usually throw and I just felt really comfortable going into the game,” Armstrong, Monmouth’s only senior, said, “so I just kind of kept throwing how I was doing, how I’ve been doing.”
Palleschi said Armstrong’s pitching win improves his record on the mound to 5-0.
“He’s thrown well all year,” Palleschi said. “He threw a few more pitches than we’d like to see. But he’s built up to that. It’s not like this is the first outing. He’s gone out and thrown that. He’s been throwing all year for us. He really did a good job.”
The inning-ending punchout in the sixth was key. Stubbert reached on an error with two outs and moved to second on another error on the play. Shumway followed with an infield single and Logan Baird loaded the bases with a walk. Armstrong then struck out Foster to stop the threat.
Foster wasn’t able to return the favor in the bottom of the seventh.
Emery entered the final frame of regulation with 10 pitches to spare. Monmouth’s Nos. 8 and 9 hitters — freshmen Lucas Harmon and Richard Johnson — used those up by drawing full counts before ultimately striking out.
“Fletcher, he’s a good stick, so it kind of doesn’t matter who he faces, the kid’s a good batter,” Novak said. “I thought, we got the eight, nine guys, and I don’t know what differently we could have done.”
Fletcher’s single was his third hit of the game, and his fourth time reaching base in as many plate appearances.