July 29, 2014

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High school baseball: Lutheran West downs Clearview in pitchers duel

Lutheran West’s Eric Szczepinski steals second base during the first inning of the Longhorns’ 4-2 win over Clearview on Wednesday in Rocky River.  STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Lutheran West’s Eric Szczepinski steals second base during the first inning of the Longhorns’ 4-2 win over Clearview on Wednesday in Rocky River. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

ROCKY RIVER — Effective pitching in baseball is just like easy-to-market real estate in that it benefits from three important factors — location, location, location.

That theory was proven brilliantly Wednesday as Lutheran West defeated Patriot Athletic Conference rival Clearview 4-2 in a thrilling pitchers duel.

Like gunslingers in a spaghetti Western, Clearview ace Roger Engle and Lutheran West’s Greg Kunze stared down opposing batters and matched each other pitch for pitch while both going the distance.

Lutheran West (6-2, 5-2 PAC) defeated Clearview (3-9, 1-4) by the same score Tuesday in Sheffield Township.

“(Engle) is always tough for them and Greg (Kunze) was great for us,” Longhorns coach Trey Lamb said. “It was just like the other game with them (Tuesday), where both teams only had a few hits. They’re a tough team and they play every pitch and at-bat hard.”

Engle was masterful in a losing effort, giving up three earned runs while scattering seven hits and striking out 10 Longhorns. Engle allowed just one walk.

“I’ve been pitching for awhile now and keeping to my fundamentals and what I’ve learned, I tried to focus on what was working,” Engle said. “I was getting to most of the spots I wanted, hitting the outside early on, but (the Longhorns) are very good at taking advantage of their opportunities.”

Engle was victimized less by Longhorns bats than he was by his team’s defensive play. Clearview committed three errors, and the Clippers had a passed ball and misplayed a couple of routine outs, turning them into hits due to bad angles or poor jumps.

“We just don’t seem to score runs for Roger,” Clippers coach Dennis Philblad said. “We didn’t put hits together and we let some balls go for hits that should have been caught. The defensive breakdowns hurt us. We just have to play a whole game, offensively and defensively.”

The biggest factor in Lutheran West’s victory was Kunze. The Longhorns senior yielded only two runs on four hits and sent 11 baffled Clippers down on strikes — nearly half on called third strikes.

“I always love a pitchers duel,” Kunze said. “It pushes you to go up against a guy like him, you want to try and match up inning after inning. I like to go against expectations and try to change up locations and pitches to throw a hitter off balance.”

While the pitchers stole the spotlight, Lutheran West senior Collin McCartney turned in a 3-for-3 performance with a double and two RBIs. All three of the right-hander’s hits were sliced to right field, the double in the fourth inning serving as the go-ahead run.

“I’m always a little late (on the swing), so I just tried to put it in play and take him where he was hitting his spots,” McCartney said.

Even after the Clippers suffered back-to-back PAC losses to Lutheran West, Engle managed to retain an optimistic attitude.

“Oh, we’re close, we’re real close to turning this around,” he said.

Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

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