When a pitcher asks his coach for the starting nod in a contest that is weeks away, a coach can’t help but have confidence in that upcoming performance.
Such was the case Tuesday for Washington High School head coach Nathan Miller and his ace Kolten Hinrichsen.
Hinrichsen went 6 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts, two walks and three hits in a dominating performance that gave the Demons a 10-1 win over the visitors from Solon in a nonconference baseball game.
“Kole was on top of his game and had a fantastic outing and that is what we needed against a really good club that has been ranked,” Miller said.
The Spartans (17-13-2) started the season ranked sixth and were as high as fifth in Class 3A.
“I just have to thank my teammates because they made the plays,” Hinrichsen said. “They stepped up.”
Hinrichsen gave up a single to the first Solon batter, a double in the sixth inning and a triple to the second-to-last batter he faced.
“Kole asked for the ball for this game a couple weeks ago,” Miller said. “We have been hearing that a lot lately. Luke (Turner) wants the ball. Chase (McDole) wants to be the closer. Ethan (Patterson) has asked for the ball. Cade (Hennigan) came in tonight and finished it off for us.”
Hennigan struck out the only batter he faced to end the game. He also had two doubles and three RBI in the game.
Washington catcher Brady Knutson had the best view of Hinrichsen’s pitches.
“Kole’s fastball was working for him,” Knutson said. “He was putting it wherever he wanted to. He did a good job of hanging his curveball and getting them to swing at ones he put in the dirt. He was spot on. He wanted this game really bad and he proved why. It feels good to almost 10-run Solon.”
A talented pitching staff is vital in the game of baseball, especially if it is to make noise in the postseason.
“When we throw strikes, we hold teams in check with our pitching staff,” Miller said. “In games that we have struggled, we have given up free bases.”
The Demons did give up some free bases against Solon with two walks, an error and a dropped third strike, but offset that with some outstanding production at the plate.
Luke Turner went 4 for 4 with two doubles and three runs batted in.
“The boys played really well,” Miller said. “Our offense really came through. We faced their ace at the beginning. We got in the box and got ready to go right away. That was big and set the tone for the rest of the game with those three first-inning runs.”
Knutson, who recently moved into the No. 1 position in the batting order, got things started with a long fly ball to deep right field that was misplayed and he ended up on third base. He struck out in his next at bat, but then hit a double, then a single.
“I got hits when I was swinging early in the count,” he said. “When I struck out, I didn’t swing at the first strike. I think batting leadoff has been a better fit for me. It helps get the momentum going in our direction if I can get on from the leadoff position.”
Miller had tinkered with the batting order since a team hitting slump a couple of weeks ago.
“Brant Stout had a big hit up the middle that really extended the lead for us,” Miller said.
Stout’s hit brought home the second and third runs of the first inning, providing all the scores Demons would need by just the sixth at bat of the Washington half of the first inning.
“I think this group is gaining confidence with each game that we play,” Miller said. “We have mixed the lineup up a little bit, since we moved Brady to leadoff and he has done a great job.”
The Demons went through five Solon pitchers in the game.
“Our bats were really going, which was great to see and that helps me throw better,” Hinrichsen said.
Washington improves to 19-7 and plays at Pella Thursday.
“What I like is we are making adjustments and steadily improving,” Miller said.