When times get tough for Valley City Babe Ruth pitcher Nate Rodriguez, his main goal is to avoid getting in a rut mentally.
“What (head coach) Lance (Lukes) always tells me is to keep my head up and keep it clear,” Rodriguez said.
It was an outlook that came in handy in an 11-1 win Monday in the first game of a double header sweep over Lisbon.
After getting the first three batters out in succession, Rodriguez finished the next three innings with the bases loaded for the final out, but allowed only one run to score.
It was one of two solid pitching performances for the team, which also beat Lisbon 14-4 in the second game. In both instances, Valley CIty’s pitchers — Rodriguez in game one and Lucas Jury in game 2 — kept the ball largely over the plate and limited Lisbon to three hits in each game.
Rodriguez kept hitters guessing and finished with 11 strikeouts and Jury had three in his first pitching performance of the year.
“He threw the ball well,” Lukes said about Jury. “He had one inning where he walked a couple and then they got a couple of bloop hits, but overall it was a good day.”
Though the pitchers did well all day long, as did the defense, the offense had a slower start to the day than Lukes preferred.
Valley City was out hit 3-2 in the first game.
Instead, Valley City took a patient approach to the plate and capitalized on 17 total walks and five errors by the Lisbon defense.
“It wasn’t our best offensive game by a long margin but we worked some walks and were aggressive on the bases,” Lukes said.
For Alex Milender, it was approach that paid off.
All four times he went to the plate, he walked and later scored. He led his team with four runs despite being scored with an at bat.
Jury and Casey Englehard had the only two hits of the game.
The offensive struggles were dealt with early in game two.
The team started the game with a six-hit, 10 run first inning, in which Jury and Jesse Johnson each scored twice.
“It was nice to see,” Lukes said about the offense. “It was a good bounce back.”
The team finished the game with nine hits. Valley City scored one run in the second inning and three more in the third to end it by mercy rule.
Jury and Johnson both finished the game 2-3 at the plate with three runs scored.