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Southpaw sits down Southridge with sound outing

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset junior shortstop Justin Silvey is one of a handful of Apollos playing OIBA who have varsity experience. Silvey had a RBI and closed out the game on the mound during Sunsets win over Southridge.

Speed isn’t everything.

Oftentimes heat is overrated on the mound, particularly if the pitcher can’t harness the fury.

Sunset’s Tyler Labatte didn’t blow 90 M.P.H. fastballs by Southridge in the Apollos’ OIBA contest on Monday, but that’s not his strength. The sinewy southpaw proved there’s more to pitching than velocity and power, helping Sunset beat Southridge, 6-4, by locating his pitches and superbly painting the corners on his way to five innings of quality work.

The senior lefty probably didn’t hit 75 M.P.H. on the radar gun all afternoon, yet Southridge only plated two runs and accumulated five hits versus the analytical hurler.

“I’m definitely one of the slower pitchers,” said Labatte with a smile. “I get a lot of flack from my team for it, but since I’m a lefty it gives me an advantage. That’s why (the coaches) put me. I can usually find my spots and work the zone a little bit. I can get batters leaning and really anxious which makes it a lot easier on my body to not throw 80 or 90 (M.P.H.) over and over again.”

Labatte maddened Southridge’s batting order by mixing a funky repertoire of off-speed offerings and curveballs that had the Skyhawks either lunging at dainty pitches or not pulling the trigger at all.

Working the inside and outside corners with his curveball, Labette got the best of proven hitters like Jacob Calo and Colton Roshak, both of whom struck out against the lefty.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge junior first baseman Jacob Calo is one of the few Skyhawks with varsity experience this summer playing for the Hawks OIBA squad.

“Using (the curveball) makes them a little more emotional,” said Labatte. “It makes them think ‘Oh, I really need to go after this’. Once you finally find that rhythm it’s a lot more fun. It’s so much easier and you can do so much more. Especially against those first three hitters who are always trying to get a base hit, if you can get them you have a pretty solid outing.”

Trailing 2-0 after Southridge junior Max Garrett pitched four prime innings for the Skyhawks, Sunset went to work against Seth Seaton, collecting RBIs from Justin Silvey and Grant Ready to tie the contest 2-2.

A fielder’s choice brought home the go-ahead run, thanks to a hard slide into second base by Nick Pullen that broke up a potentially ending-inning double play. Then, following a balk, Robert McIntyre smoked a single up the middle to plate the Apollos’ fourth run of the inning, 4-2.

“My overall goal is to get on base and move the runners over,” said McIntyre. “I just tried to do that and got it done. When you have guys on base you have to hit the ball to the right side and let it travel a little more (into the strike zone).”

McIntyre added a clothesline, two-run double to center in the seventh that extended Sunset’s lead to 7-2. Silvey came on in relief of Labatte in the top of the sixth and got the save for the Apollos. Silvey, along with Pullen, Justin Taylor, Jason Dumont, Angel Manzanares are some of the key incumbent back from last year’s squad that finished third in Metro and had on Sheldon on the ropes in the first round of the 6A playoffs before falling in heartbreaking fashion, 6-3.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset's Nick Pullen swings at a pitch around the outer half of the plate in the third inning against Southridge on Monday.

“We’re going to be scrappy,” said Silvey. “We’re not going to go up there and overpower kids. We’re going to find our runs, make our plays and surprise people this year. I really like this team. We’re all playing really hard and bonding well. It’s a good bunch of kids.”

“We have to keep scoring every inning whether we’re up or down,” added McIntyre.

Silvey, a junior next year, is leading off for Sunset and playing shortstop in place of Neeson.

As a sophomore, Silvey experienced a breakout season manning second base, turning twin killings with Neeson, making diving plays in the hole and supplying consistent hitting in different spots in the order. Next spring Silvey will be one of the more seasoned Apollos with two years of varsity ball and three summers of OIBA under his belt.

He’ll be one of Sunset’s team leaders, though the hard-charging infielder said his approach to the game won’t waver.

“For me I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing, keep my head down and the young kids humble,” said Silvey. “I have to keep everyone playing hard, diving around, playing the game how’s it’s supposed to be played. Summer lets us know what plays our teammates are going to make and which ones we have to step up and make. We’ll know each other’s range and how everyone plays.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge second baseman Jake Searle waits for a potential double play ball in the third inning against Sunset in OIBA action on Monday.

Labatte was a junior varsity pitcher as a junior, and is using this summer on Sunset’s OIBA squad to show head coach Danny Adams and the Apollo coaching staff he’s worthy of a spot on the pitching staff next spring.

Rising junior Scott Wright figures to slide into Sunset’s Tuesday starter role, but with Jake Neeson and Kasey Porter graduating there are two holes in the Apollo starting rotation.

“He’s going to shock people,” said Silvey of Labatte. “He’s going to get kids to get out front (at the plate) and drop bombs, but they’re not going to do it to him. He’s going to drop it off the plate.”

So far, Labatte’s given Adams and company reason to believe he’s ready for primetime Metro competition. However, the senior isn’t satisfied quiet yet. Sunset has at least 10 more games until the OIBA’s end of summer tournament in July, which will lend Labatte enough outings to keep building his credentials and bolster his stock in Adams’ eyes.

“I’m trying to prove myself,” said Labatte. “I almost pitched a complete game today, and most of the time when they put me I’m going the whole game. I always gun for the full game and try to finish strong. I’m trying to show that I can keep my emotions to myself, control and calm myself down and keep at what I’m supposed to do.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge shortstop Seth Seaton tags out a Sunset baserunner for an out in the third inning of the Skyhawks loss to the Apollos on Monday.

Southridge is down five varsity regulars this summer who chose to play against better club competition rather than face off versus the occasionally sub-par OIBA docket.

With starters such as Parker Stidham, Bryce Roesch, Cam Nowack and Matt Orcutt away for most of the summer, younger players such as Garrett, Calo, Seaton and Jake Searle have been give the chance to play every day.

There were certainly moments of promise against Sunset, as evidenced by Searle and Seaton turning a double play in the second inning. Searle said this summer has been about forging a team bond and adjusting to the speed of the varsity level.

“We’ve played fairly well,” said Searle “We don’t have a lot of team chemistry, which is something we need to build. That’s what we’re good at. We’re young and we’re going to get used to each other. We work pretty well together. We have to make our hitting way more powerful because we only have a couple guys that can hit.”

Garrett threw four shutout innings on Monday and got out a second-and-third jam with one out in the fourth by getting Jett Taylor to ground out and striking out DuMont to end the threat.

“I feel like my curve was working pretty well,” said Garrett. “I was pounding the zone and trying to throw low so (Sunset) would hit grounders and my fielders could back me up.”

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