JOLIET — Plano and Morris convened at Route 66 Stadium in downtown Joliet for a good old fashioned pitchers' duel Tuesday.
Although junior hurler Mike Bruell turned in a strong outing for the Reapers, Morris starter Jacob Overbeck was downright excellent as he delivered a one-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over Plano.
Despite the chilly weather, Overbeck had no trouble bringing the heat against the Reapers' order. He remained perfect through 3 and 1/3 innings and maintained a no-hitter until Plano's Patrick Johnson blooped a soft single into short right-center field with two outs in the fifth.
Johnson's well-placed pop fly proved to be the Reapers' lone hit of the evening. Over seven innings of work, the only blemishes Overbeck was saddled with were a pair of walks to Eli Gonzalez, a wayward breaking ball that sent Cam Ward to first base with a hit-by-pitch and Johnson's aforementioned single.
Aside from that, he was downright dominant.
"I think that's the first time I've (thrown a one-hitter) in my career. It felt good to get out there and just own those guys," Overbeck said. "I felt good with my fastball and changeup, but it was a little tougher to get a grip on the curveball in the cold. I'd say locating my fastball pretty much where I wanted it in the zone was the key today."
Bruell was no slouch, either. The Reapers' starter allowed only three singles and walked one in the tough-luck loss. The difference at the dish was mostly a matter of timing: Morris caught some breaks and capitalized on a pair of crucial passed balls, while Plano never had a runner reach third base.
There was plenty for Plano head coach John Parpet to be satisfied with, despite the unfavorable outcome. An excellent, complete game from his starter and excellent defense behind him in a narrow loss to a Morris squad that entered play at 7-1 overall on the season is nothing to sniff at for a young Reapers squad which regularly starts three freshman.
"We've had a rough stretch here. We started off hot, but we're playing every day and it's gotten our pitching a little backed up. We had been hitting the ball really well, it's just that tonight (Overbeck) was extremely tough." Parpet said. "We just couldn't put anything together, but our guys know that it isn't like football or basketball. We're playing five, six or even seven games a week. We just have to keep grinding it out and put the losses behind us. They'll wake up for school in a couple of hours, the lineup will be sent out first thing in the morning and we'll have Genoa-Kingston ready to go at our place in no time at all."
The loss dropped the Reapers to 4-6 overall in the early going, while the win boosted Morris to 8-1 on the spring. While Plano spends the next few weeks looking to string together wins with a bit more consistency, Overbeck and company will be eagerly focused on maintaining the things that have worked thus far.
"We have Plainfield South coming up on Thursday. They're a really tough, ranked opponent and then we start conference play after that. Most of our challenges are ahead of us, but at 8-1 heading into the conference schedule, you feel pretty good," Overbeck said. "We've had very, very good pitching so far so hopefully that keeps up. Letting just one, two or three runs per game is pretty good for high school baseball.
"(Bruell) had a really good game today. He changed speeds and had a little deception on his fastball. I'll give him his credit," he added. "When we face a tough guy like that, small ball is going to be key for us. We just have to get a few more bunts down in big spots and we'll be able to score some runs."