Back in the day it might have been Ryan vs. Clemens locked in a power pitcher’s duel.
More recently you can maybe say Verlander vs. Scherzer.
Tuesday night at Archbold it was simply RJ vs. DJ, as in Evergreen lefty RJ Shunck going up against Archbold right-hander DJ Newman.
The much anticipated showdown was more than advertised, and in the end it was Shunck who fired a two-hit shutout with sophomore Hunter Vaculik providing the game-winning hit in a 1-0 Viking win in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League opener for both teams.
“That was two heavyweight pitchers out there on the mound today duking it out,” expressed Evergreen coach Mark Cymbolin. “All the build up, they gave everyone here what they expected.
“It was quick moving. Zero, zero, zero, zero, a lot of zeroes. It was exactly what you would expect.”
Base runners were scarce and scoring chances even more remote.
Brock Hudik singled to open the game but Newman caught the fleet outfielder with too good of a jump trying to steal.
Shunck issued a pair of base on balls in the Archbold half of the first but got a two-out strikeout to get out of trouble.
Newman blew through the next three innings as the only base runner he allowed was Hudik’s lead off walk in the fourth.
Shunck walked two more Streaks in the same span but Hudik’s skidding catch of Jack Hurst’s sinking liner in the third and a 6-4-3 double play in the fourth eliminated any possible flicker of a threat.
“He made two plays like that,” Cymbolin exclaimed of his senior centerfielder. “Two plays to take possible hits away. He can really go get it out there.”
After that Viking twin-killing in the bottom of the fourth, Evergreen finally got to Newman in the fifth.
Ashton Sayers’ sawed-off handle shot fell into right for a single and pinch-runner Joe Mitchey went to second on a passed ball.
Connor Hewson’s liner to right dropped for a hit chasing Mitchey to third and Vaculik delivered on the first pitch with a line drive single to left to plate the only run of the game.
“The double play ball I think really turned the game,” stated Cymbolin. “It gave us a boost coming in to hit and that’s when we got the run we had to have.
“That’s the bottom half of the order again for us coming through. Those guys have been more and more. They are getting opportunities and more and more they are taking advantage of those chances.”
Newman escaped further trouble with a strikeout, pop out and a fielder’s choice but Shunck got the only run he needed.
After four and two-thirds innings of hitless ball, Stephen Diller’s single to right broke up the no-hitter but Shunck picked him off first and Sayers’ throw to Landen Vance cut down the Blue Streak base-runner.
Newman’s roller in front of the plate turned into the second Archbold hit in the sixth and an ensuing walk put two on with two down before Shunck again got a strikeout to end the inning.
The Viking fireballer, bound for the University of Toledo, got Archbold 1-2-3 in the seventh with his eighth strikeout of the game ending it.
“The Northview game and today he was a lot better,” Cymbolin said of Shunck’s performace. “His pitch count is staying lower right now and he trusts his defense and makes people put the ball in play.”
Newman struck out 13 Vikings, allowing five hits, the last to Zack Laver in the sixth from which point the BGSU commit whiffed the next five Evergreen hitters.
Evergreen, now 3-1 on the year, travels to Patrick Henry Thursday and hosts Edgerton in a doubleheader Saturday. Archbold welcomes Wauseon Thursday and is at Perrysburg on Saturday.