Pitching, defense, timely hits key to victory, Big Sky coach says

2011-08-21T21:00:00Z 2011-08-21T23:45:33Z Pitching, defense, timely hits key to victory, Big Sky coach saysBy SUSAN OLP Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
August 21, 2011 9:00 pm  • 

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — At a news conference after the Big Sky All-Stars' 3-1 victory Sunday over Lafayette, La., Big Sky coach Gene Carlson was asked if he expected a 2-0 record when his team arrived in town last week.

Carlson had a short answer.


But Carlson reiterated what the philosophy of the Billings team has been since it started playing together in late June.

"It's pitching and defense and timely hits," he said, sitting next to four of his players who also spoke at the Little League World Series news conference.

"We'll do whatever we have to do to win the game, score what their pitching and defense gives us."

Sunday's victory moves the Big Sky team into Wednesday night's semifinal game against Huntington Beach, Calif., which defeated LeGrange, Ky., 10-0 Sunday night.

Patrick Zimmer, who pitched five shutout innings, said his fastball was working for him Sunday.

"My curveball was working better at the beginning of the game and then it was hanging at the end," he said. "I just had a little bit of trouble with it."

Pitcher Sean Jones, who closed out the game, said that role is "kind of torturous."

"You're thinking, man, you want to do good so you don't lose it," he said. "But then again, it's cool knowing that you finished it off."

Carlson, asked what helps Zimmer succeed in the big games, said the pitcher "spots his fastball when he has to, he keeps the hitters off-balance, he's got a good curve and he just throws strikes."

The manager said he and the coaches discussed whether to substitute Jones for Zimmer. A couple of factors played into the decision, he said.

First, echoing what his pitcher said, Carlson noted that toward the end, Zimmer was leaving his curveball up. Then they talked about the fact that he had gone through Lafayette's lineup three times.

"The more you see a pitcher, the more comfortable you get hitting against him, so we decided to make a change," he said.

Ian Leatherberry said it felt good to hit a line drive down the right-field line that drove in a run.

"It was a fastball outside and I just took it the other way and hoped it got down fair and it did," he said.

Before Carlson and his players spoke at the press conference, manager Leland Padgett of the Lafayette team talked to reporters. He said his team would start rebuilding again at Monday's practice.

The Southwest champs will face the local favorites, the Keystone team from Clinton County, Pa., on Monday night. Keystone has a 1-1 record, as does Lafayette.

Padgett said he thought the difference in Sunday's ballgame was a lack of hits and the pitch count.

"Our guys weren't getting first-pitch strikes, and you look up there (on the scoreboard) and the pitch count was really unbalanced," he said.

Padgett praised Zimmer's pitching effort, saying he thought the Big Sky pitcher "did a fabulous job." The manager also complimented the Big Sky coaches and the other players.

"Give credit to those guys," he said. "It's not just about we played poor, it's about how they played. They played well today and they deserved to win. They did a good job."


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