Bickerstaff nearly perfect in Big Red’s win over Claymont

RUNNING HARD — Steubenville’s Clayton Criss hustles to first base against Claymont on Saturday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — Calvin Bickerstaff was nearly perfect Saturday, as Steubenville opened its 2019 baseball season with a 10-0, five-inning victory over Claymont at Vaccaro Field.

The junior right-hander, who went 8-1 a season ago, mowed down 12 of the 16 Mustang batters he faced on strikes and didn’t allow a hit. Claymont’s only base runner came when catcher Garrett Armstrong reached on a first-inning throwing error.

Bickerstaff fanned seven of Claymont’s first eight hitters. He finished strong by whiffing the side in the fifth.

“Calvin threw well for us today,” Big Red coach Fred Heatherington said. “He kept his pitch count down and was able to get ahead in the count. He only threw 57 pitches.

“He really had command of two pitches — his fast ball and his curve. This early in the season, we were looking for him to have a low pitch count, and he was able to do that.”

Offensively, Big Red managed eight hits, took advantage of five walks and made the visitors pay for their four errors. Heatherington’s squad scored in four of its five plate appearances.

Ethan Duggan got Steubenville going when he drew a first-inning walk from Claymont starter Michael Lesiecki. Niko Kausky followed with a single, then Clayton Criss delivered a run-scoring base hit. Quinn McCoy’s fielder’s choice scored Kausky, and Criss scampered home on a Mustang throwing error. Kausky’s RBI made it 4-0 Big Red in the second.

Hayden Savage and Bickerstaff both drove home runs in the fourth. A couple more Claymont fielding miscues, along with a Duggan RBI, put Big Red up 9-0 in the home half of the fifth. McCoy then lined a double to center to complete the mercy rule triumph.

“I thought we played well for our opening game,” Heatherington said. “We have some new guys playing new positions. We hit the ball well and ran the bases well. It was an all-around good game.

“I think the key was we were able to score early. We were facing a good pitcher, so it was an important for us to have a fast start. Scoring early really put us in a good spot, especially with Calvin throwing like he was throwing.”

Kausky, Big Red’s starter at first, and Criss, the senior catcher, both had two singles to pace Steubenville’s plate attack. McCoy, the sophomore designated hitter, delivered the game’s only extra base hit.

Lesiecki, who was tagged with the pitching loss, fanned six in four innings of work.

Heatherington’s squad has a busy week ahead of it. Big Red will visit Cambridge Monday, host East Liverpool Tuesday, travel to Wheeling Park Wednesday and then head to Meadowbrook for a single game on Saturday.

“Hopefully, we can get a rhythm going and get some games in,” Heatherington said. “If not, we will be inside practicing. At this point, we have to wait and see what the weather makes us do. From there, we’ll do what we have to do.”

Steubenville 10, Claymont 0

Claymont 0-0-0 0-0 — 0-0-4

Steubenville 3-1-0 2-4 — 10-8-0

CLAYMONT (0-1): Lesiecki (LP, 4IP, 6R, 6H, 6K, 5BB) Melzer (1IP, 4R, 2H, 1HBP) and Armstrong.

STEUBENVILLE (1-0): Bickerstaff (WP, 5IP, 0R, 0H, 12K, 0BB) and Criss.

TWO OR MORE HITS: STEUBENVILLE (Kausky 2, Criss 2); DOUBLES: STEUBENVILLE 1 (McCoy); RBIs: STEUBENVILLE (McCoy 2; Duggan; Kausky; Criss; Savage; Bickerstaff).

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