He may not literally have ice water in his veins but Cleveland starting pitcher Ryan Flores had little difficulty pitching in near freezing temperatures Tuesday night as the Rams traveled to take on Smithfield-Selma in a Two Rivers 3A Conference baseball contest.
Flores made quick work of the Spartans on an unseasonably cold night, tossing a no-hitter in the Rams’ 10-0 defeat over Smithfield-Selma (4-10, 1-2).
Flores won his fourth game on the season in impressive fashion and Cleveland (14-2 overall, 3-0 conference) hung up seven runs in the top of the fifth inning to get by the Spartans in five innings via the 10-run mercy rule.
“I just had to focus a little bit more and bring a little bit more intensity,” Flores said about pitching in cold weather. “I was able to throw my fastball for a lot of strikes and get ahead of batters and I was able to put them away with curveballs and off-speed (pitches) and stuff like that.”
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It wouldn’t take an astrophysicist to figure out that it was the crooked number “7” in the top of the fifth inning that turned the game on its head but the Spartans came close to possibly preventing the huge Cleveland inning from happening in the first place.
Lee was in cruise control to start the frame and got Jo Jo Smothers to fly out to center field for the first out. Lee almost recorded the second out one batter later when Flores hit a shot right at Spartans third baseman Corey Branch but the ball was hit hard, not allowing Branch time to knock the ball down and make the play.
Instead, Landry Moore followed with a double, Lee walked a pair of batters and Seth Gooding and Brennan Linfield each came through with run-scoring hits to bust the game wide open.
Three to watch
Ryan Flores, Cleveland: It’s tough to imagine Flores having a game any better than his performance on Spartan Field Tuesday night. The Lander University commit was in complete control on the mound, striking out nine batters while walking just two in five innings of work. Flores also went 3-for-3 at the plate, scoring three runs and driving in one himself.
“Ryan was very dominant,” Cleveland coach Jamie Lee said. “He worked ahead in a lot of counts. He’s been throwing a lot of pitches in his last two or three games so I challenged him to get out with four pitches a batter; he did a good job with that.
“It was just a good win all the way around.”
Seth Gooding, Cleveland: Gooding’s bases loaded single in the top of the fifth inning helped to break the game wide open, plating Tyler Keenan and Landry Moore. Gooding went 2-for-3 on the night.
Jalyn Lee, Smithfield-Selma: For 4.1 innings, Lee held the Rams in check. Leading up to the Rams’ seven-run explosion in the fifth inning, Lee retired seven consecutive batters faced allowing the Spartans to stay in the game through the fourth inning, trailing just 3-0 at the time.
There’s plenty of time to right the ship for a Smithfield-Selma team who knocked off 4A Clayton earlier in the season.
However, as the Spartans have the bulk of their Two Rivers schedule before them, consistency from game-to-game will be paramount.
“Our games are so different from each other,” said second-year coach Michael Sliger. “One game we won’t make an error, the next game we’ll make six. If you catch us on a hot day, we’ve got a chance to beat any team in the state but if it’s one of our bad days, anybody can beat us.”
They said it
“I tip my hat to Flores; he is a bulldog,” Sliger said. “He is a next level pitcher. I knew he was going to be competitive and I knew he was going to give us a tough game and that’s what he did.”
By the numbers
72: Pitches needed for Flores to close the door on the Spartans in five innings.
48: Strikes thrown by Flores, resulting in a 2:1 strike to ball ration for the southpaw.
10: Batters faced by Flores who required four or less pitches to retire.
5: Total base runners for Smithfield-Selma for the game. Two reached on errors, Chandler Lasater earned a pair of walks and Cole Pearson reached first base after a third-strike got past Cleveland catcher Bobby Dixon and went all the way to the backstop.