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Nelson shuts Morris down on four-hitter

SYCAMORE – The trickling rain that started in the third inning of Sycamore’s 2-0 win over Morris on Monday didn’t seem to bother pitcher Scott Nelson, even as the pitching mound became muddy.

A 15-minute rain delay didn’t bother him, nor did errors behind him. During his complete-game shutout, Nelson was razor-sharp, allowing only three hits while striking out eight and walking one.

“He’s a really smart pitcher,” Spartans coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “He threw his breaking ball for a strike, and he seemed to have that Greg Maddux thing going where, when they’re looking for it in the dirt, he throws it for a strike, and when they’re looking for it for a strike, he throws it in the dirt. He seemed to know what the hitter was looking for in that situation.”

The Spartans (6-3, 3-2 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) scored in the second inning when Cooper Vinz drove in Ian Kidd with a sacrifice fly. The rain began to sprinkle in the third inning until it became a downpour in the fifth inning, and the teams were sent to their dugouts.

But Nelson said the rain delay didn’t really bother him.

“We played through it and we played pretty well,” Nelson said. “The ball gets wet, it gets heavy, but you’ve got to work through that and throw strikes.”

The Spartans struggled to hit situationally, as they have all season, but Alex Keller tacked on another run in the sixth inning when he doubled and scored on a throwing error. That run, Cavanaugh said, made all the difference.

“It’s a [much] different game playing from two behind than playing from one behind,” Cavanaugh said. “I was a lot more comfortable knowing we had a two-run lead rather than one.”

Morris (11-4, 1-3 NI Big 12 East) had one runner on base in the seventh inning, but Nelson made a nice defensive play, picking up a ball that trickled down the third-base line and whipping a throw to first base, before he closed out the game with a strikeout.

The Spartans scratched out enough runs to pull out the win, but they know they need to be smarter with runners in scoring position.

“We’ve been having trouble pulling the ball,” Vinz said. “We’ve been talking about doing it for the team and not for yourself and working on a lot of situational hitting in practice.

Situational hitting will be an improvement the Spartans will have to make. But on Monday, because of Nelson’s performance, they didn’t need much offense.

“He was as dominant as you can possibly be, especially when you consider we played bad defense,” Cavanaugh said. “Scott was great from the first pitch of the game. He always throws strikes. We never have to worry about that with him.”

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