By GREG MENGELT
Providence jumped out to a 2-0 lead and overcame two Drew Ellis bombs for a 5-4, eight-inning home victory over Jeffersonville on Monday.
With the game tied at four in the bottom of the eighth inning, Ben Katcher’s squeeze bunt allowed Nick Campbell to score the game-winning run.
“I just wanted to get it down,” Katcher said. “As much as we’ve practiced it, I was confident I would get it down.”
“It was the best situation for us,” Providence manager Scott Hornung said. “Nick is a good baserunner and Ben handles the bat well and is an especially good bunter. It turned out to be an excellent situation for us.”
Campbell reached first on one out when Ellis bobbled a bouncer to shortstop. Ellis regrouped and made a strong throw, but Campbell beat it.
“He’s struggling a little bit right now defensively,” Jeff first-year manager Derek Ellis said of his shortstop and son. “I know this will eat at him.”
Campbell stole second and went to third on a passed ball before coming home on Katcher’s squeeze.
“Nick is a very smart baserunner,” Katcher said. “I knew if I could put the ball anywhere [in play], he’d get in.”
Jeff only got to extra innings because of Ellis. Trailing 2-1 in the sixth with Nick Gallagher on first, Ellis pounded the ball over the left-field fence to give the Red Devils a 3-2 lead.
After Providence answered with two runs in the bottom of the sixth — thanks a leadoff double by Andrew Hunt and RBIs from Campbell and Tyler Simms — Ellis tied it in the top of the seventh. His bomb landed in the soccer bleachers beyond Providence’s center-field fence and traveled at least 420 feet off of Hunt.
“They called timeout and [Derek Ellis] said I probably wouldn’t get a pitch [to hit],” Drew Ellis recalled. “He left one over the plate.”
“Drew’s been in a lot of big games,” Derek Ellis said. “He knows he’s not going to get many good pitches to hit in that situation. He got one over the plate and made them pay. We have to get something from someone else, though.”
Hornung knew Ellis was dangerous, but his experience told him not to put the tying run on base.
“My baseball knowledge told me not to [walk him],” Hornung said. “You can’t do that. But if he came up again in the same situation, I’d think about it. That’s how much respect I have for him.”
“He’s a tough hitter,” Katcher said of Drew Ellis. “He’s always tough to get out.”
Providence took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. After Cristian Ensley walked against Jeff starter Chandler Dale, Hunt hit a single into center field. Damin Smith fielded the ball and threw to first, but his toss went over the fence, allowing Ensley to score and Hunt move to third. Hunt later scored on a wild pitch.
“That’s the [error] that hurt us,” Derek Ellis said.
Jeff got on the board in the third on a Gallagher one-out RBI triple to the base of the center-field fence. However, Gallagher was stranded on third when Ellis and Trent Astle grounded out to Katcher at third base.
Providence is now 4-0 on the season.
“I’m feeling good about my team right now,” Hornung said.
“I think this is really big,” Campbell said. “We’ve kind of been overlooked.”
Jeff, on the other hand, is now 3-3 after dropping three straight games.
“It doesn’t really concern me,” Drew Ellis said. “It’s still early in the season. He just have to come out and play every road game like it’s a home game. Give credit for Providence. They came out and did a great job.”
“I’m not concerned about the losses. It’s the way we’re losing,” Derek Ellis added. “We’re making bone-headed baserunning mistakes, and we have to put the ball in play more. We’re striking out way too much.”
Hunt earned the victory after a strong start from Jon Davis, who gave up one earned run and three hits and struck out four Devils in five innings. Hunt was also 2-for-4 at the plate and scored twice.