By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Daily Sun
It was Hammer Time at Navarro Thursday afternoon, and what the Bulldogs saw from their ace, J.D. Hammer, they not only liked, but all but expected as Hammer nailed down a 5-1 win over Bossier Parrish in the first of a three-game series that continues Friday with a doubleheader beginning at 1:00 p.m.
It was Hammer’s first complete game of his career at Navarro, where he pitched in relief a year ago.
He’s a starter now — and a finisher.
“That’s what I would like to do every time,’’ Hammer said of his nine-inning performance. “I expect to do that every time.’’
“I’ll take it all the time,’’ Navarro Coach Whoa Dill said. “He just straight dominated. That’s why his ERA is 1.20. He threw a lot strikes, got a bunch of ground balls. He threw his fastball away and he threw his fastball in, throwing the ball on both sides of the plate for strikes.’’
Hammer made it look easy, real easy, throwing fastballs for strikes and watching his infielders gobble up grounders and the game against Bossier. The win gave Navarro a 5-2 record in the Region XIV race. The Bulldogs lead the league, but this was the first time they won the opening game of a three-game series in the region.
Hammer not only won the game, but with a little bit of luck he could have thrown a no-hitter. He gave up two infield singles, and lost the shutout after he gave up a two-out walk in the fifth and then watched as a short fly ball dropped just in front of left fielder Sam McDonnell, whose glove grazed the ball as it hit the turf.
“With any luck at all he throws a nine-inning no-hitter,’’ Dill said.
Bossier hit only four balls into the outfield the entire game.
“I know I have a great defense,’’ Hammer said. “I just pitch to contact and let my fielders make plays. They make the plays.’’
There were 15 ground balls, including a 4-6-3 double play in the fourth and a highlight tape play by third baseman Grayson Lewis in the sixth when he charged a well placed bunt, made a bare-hand pickup and fired to first just in time. Hammer’s right – they do make plays.
Hammer struck out two, including the final out of the game, and walked three and was never in trouble other than the bloop single that cost him a shutout.
“That’s my game,’’ Hammer said of all the ground balls. “I throw a two-seamer that sinks. I look to get a lot of ground balls.’’
Hammer is only 3-1 but has pitched well enough to have a much better record. But Thursday’s game is the kind of game that defines him.
“That’s who he is,’’ said catcher Jovan Hernandez, who had a couple of clutch RBI hits. “He really dominated. His fastball was really good today. He really didn’t need another pitch. He was smooth and smart, and threw first-pitch strikes. That’s definitely who he is, the way he pitched today.’’
Hernandez, who had a walkoff RBI single on Monday against Indian Hills, delivered a two-out RBI single in Navarro’s three-run third inning on Thursday, and also drove in McDonnell, who singled and went to second on Kyle Kirk’s single in the in the fifth. Hernandez followed Kirk with a liner to left to give Navarro a 5-1 lead.
“I’m seeing the ball well,’’ Hernandez said. “And just feeling good at the plate.’’
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead on Luke Hoyle’s sacrifice fly to right in the first inning and added three in the third. J.P. Phillips led off the third with a single and moved up when Lewis walked and came home for a 2-0 lead when McDonnell laced a single. Hoyle drove in his second run with another sacrifice fly. Kirk walked and Hernandez came through for a 4-0 lead.
“It was good to get that first win of the series,’’ said Dill, whose Bulldogs (16-9) had dropped opening games to Panola and Angelina before coming back and taking the next two games. “We got some clutch hits and J.D. was dominating.’’