Gus Land has been sharp his last two outings, but Thursday night he might have had his best stuff as he hurled a one-hit shutout in St. Clair’s 5-0 win over New Haven Post 366 in Freshman American Legion action in New Haven.
Mixing a curve ball with a good fastball, Land allowed his only hit in the fourth inning when New Haven catcher Joe Perjak dribbled a single between third and short that barely made it out of the infield.
“It was a solid pitching performance,” said Manager Brad Thompson of St. Clair Post 347. “He’s had two real solid outings in a row, and this one was identical to the one he pitched against St. Charles.”
Land, a righthander, struck out 12 batters and only walked two, one of them was the first New Haven batter he faced. But after Jay Eichelberger walked, he was erased in a double play.
Land came out in the seventh after he reached his pitch limit, but not before he struck out the first two batters in the inning. Sal Caminiti came in and retired the last batter.
“We couldn’t touch him,” said New Haven Manager Hansi Bloch. “St. Clair is a good team and we just didn’t have the sticks to go against him.”
Justin Gauer started for Post 366 and got into trouble when he walked three batters after giving up a single to Dalton Thompson to lead off the game. But he escaped with St. Clair scoring just one run. Perjak threw out Thompson trying to steal second, then Chase Walters was safe on a fielder’s choice, Gauer walked Caminiti with the bases loaded to force in Johny Kindel.
St. Clair had two hits in the third but failed to score. Chase Walters led off the inning with a double to right and Jesse Maraman beat out an infield hit. What saved the inning for New Haven was a diving catch by center fielder Kaden Straatmann on a sinking line drive off the bat of Land.
Post 347 added two runs in the fourth. Brady Simpson led off the inning with a double, and scored on a one-out double by Wade Hoffman, who scored later in the inning when the catcher’s throw on an attempted pickoff at third sailed into the outfield.
St. Clair scored two more runs in the fifth when Walters’ single got past the leftfielder and rolled to the fence, putting Walters at third. Land hit a sacrifice to score Walters, making it 4-0. Caminiti then singled and Nick Dierking was hit by a pitch. After Gauer walked Hoffman to force in a run, he was replaced by Ethan Kackley.
Land struck out eight of the last nine batters he faced.
“He (Land) got into a couple of varsity games this year at St. Clair, and that helped him tremendously,” said Thompson. “Our defense stood up early after he walked that batter in the first inning. That gave him confidence to know he had defense behind him.”
Thompson said Land has gotten things figured out in his last two starts.
“We told our pitchers earlier in the season that they had to get their offspeed pitches over for strikes to be effective, and they weren’t doing that early. But now they are making pitches.”
Land was textbook Thursday night with a brilliant effort, and Thompson has now watched his pitchers throw four shutouts in their last four Ninth District games.
“Gus has been one of our bright spots,” he said.
Kackley was a bright spot in a relief role for New Haven. The Sullivan sophomore-to-be did not allow a hit in 2.2 innings. He struck out three and walked one.