Apex pitchers Chase Denison and Matt Tenuta combined for a three-hitter, while Athens Drive pitchers Andrew Van Genderen, Connor Chewning and Sean Rudio combined for a one-hitter.
On a day when neither team’s lineup hit as well as it would have liked to, the difference between winning and losing wasn’t who could best put the bat on the ball, but who could best decide when not to.
Athens Drive walked Apex batters eight times, including two hit-by-pitches, while Apex’s pitchers only walked two Jaguars. And that’s how Apex took a 2-0 Tri-Nine Conference road victory Tuesday afternoon.
“Today we had way too many walks,” said Athens Drive coach Ryan Westbrook. “With as many walks as we had, I’m sure (Apex) coach (Mike) Valder thought they probably should’ve scored more than two runs, and I was fortunate they didn’t.”
Apex’s only hit – though Keaton Oaks reached in the top of the fifth on an infield hit that was ruled an error in the home book – came to start the top of the fourth. Designated hitter Austin Campbell hit a soft liner to center field but reached second after a heads-up play where he saw no Jags player covering the bag during the throw back to the infield.
Campbell reached third on a passed ball in the next at-bat, and was driven by Jake Tart on a fielder’s choice.
The Cougars’ next run came in the fifth inning when Chewning walked the bases loaded and then walked Campbell to drive in Alex Yarem.
Denison, a sophomore, usually doesn’t get the Tuesday starts. But Tenuta, an N.C. State signee, had just thrown 109 pitches the week before, so Apex coach Mike Valder made the switch.
“I’m tipping my cap to that young man. We gave him a chance to come up here – this is the first time he’s been in the game with us – gave him the ball and said ‘Let’s go get it done,’” Valder said. “Didn’t really think he was going to give me 6 and 1/3. I’m certainly proud of his effort... He didn’t press when he got behind on a batter.”
Denison faced just 19 batters, one more than the minimum for his innings worked.
“My fastball was working really well and my change-up was working,” Denison said. “I threw a lot of strikes and threw under 70 pitches.”
Tenuta came in for Denison with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to pick up the save for Apex (4-2, 4-1). It was the third time this year that Athens (1-5, 0-4), which never had more than one base-runner in any inning, has been shut out.
“I think some of the guys are putting too much pressure on themselves,” Westbrook said. “We’ve not been blown out yet, and the defense will keep us there. We’ve just got to start scoring some runs.”