The cold and snowy weather has shut down most area baseball and softball teams but it hasn’t cooled off Independence senior pitcher Kyle Stefanski.
Stefanski allowed just one earned run on one hit and struck out nine to lead the Blue Devils to an 11-1 six-inning win over visiting Berkshire on Wednesday.
“Having a great defense behind you gives you all the confidence in the world,” Stefanski said. “My defense was able to make the plays that were hit to them. On the mound, I was able to locate my fastball and curveball, which kept hitters guessing.”
Stefanski improved to 2-1 on the year. He has allowed just two earned runs in 20 innings of work with 30 strikeouts. His earned run average is just 0.70.
“This has been one of the toughest springs to play baseball in,” Stefanski said. “If you hit any part of the bat besides the barrel, you’re hands are going to sting. As a pitcher, I use that to my advantage, always trying to pitch inside or outside. Not playing for a couple days, then having a game just pop up can be frustrating but we only control what we do and how we act.”
Independence scored a run in the bottom of the first and added four more in the third. The Badgers pushed one across in the fourth but the Blue Devils responded with two in the fifth and four more in the sixth to earn the run-rule victory.
“I was happy with our concentration and energy today,” said Independence coach Mark Echstenkamper. ‘We haven’t played since Saturday so to come out and bang out 10 hits and score 11 was nice to see. Kyle was a strike-throwing machine again. It was another great outing by him.”
Owen Ramm was hit by a pitch with two outs in the first then scored on Jordan Mallernee’s single. Mallernee finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs batted in.
Stefanski drew a leadoff walk in the third to jumpstart the four-run rally.
Nick Mroczynski then walked and Ramm was hit by a pitch for a second time to load the bases with no outs. Mallernee then singled and Andrew Teribery reached on an error to make it 3-0. Tyler Teare’s two-out single pushed the lead to 5-0.
Teare finished 2-for-3 with two RBI.
“My hits this season have been few and far between so it was nice to finally string a couple together in the same game,” Teare said. “This year, I have been late on the ball. After finally coming to that realization, Coach (Echstenkamper) has been throwing the ball inside on me during batting practice to make me get on time. That has helped tremendously.”
Mallernee, Teribery and Kevin Mooney each finished with two hits for the Blue Devils, who improved to 4-8 overall and 2-2 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division.
Independence has played just four games since returning from its spring break trip to Myrtle Beach that concluded on April 5.
“Dealing with rainouts and snowouts this week has become the norm for Independence baseball,” Teare said. “It’s very challenging coming from the beautiful weather in Myrtle Beach to this less than ideal weather back home. Like I said earlier, I haven’t been hitting well so my confidence wavered a little bit the past couple of games, but with the help of my teammates I’ve been able to slowly build it back up.”
Independence travels to Berkshire on Friday.