BELLEVILLE — Caleb Williams engineered another commanding performance Wednesday to further solidify his end of the lethal one-two punch for the Belleville Henderson High School baseball pitching staff.
Williams matched his career high with 10 strikeouts — reaching the mark for the second time in the past week — to power the Panthers to a 6-1 victory over the Copenhagen Golden Knights in a Frontier League “D” Division matchup.
Williams went the distance and allowed one unearned run on four hits and one walk across his seven innings, pushing the Panthers (9-2 overall and league) to their eighth straight victory.
“The fastballs were working,” Williams said afterward. “I threw a whole lot of fastballs, and they couldn’t catch up, and all the groundballs caused, my guys behind me made the plays and we got outs.”
Williams cruised through four shutout innings and held a 5-0 lead before the potential shutout was surrendered. The Copenhagen leadoff batter, Clay Vogt, reached on an error and Landon Sullivan delivered an RBI triple later in the inning for the only damage against Williams.
Williams secured his third complete game win — his first of the season beyond five innings — and he struck out 10 in five innings to highlight a 14-2 victory over Sackets Harbor last Friday.
“Caleb has improved a lot,” Belleville Henderson coach Paul Gibbs said. “This year, he’s worked real hard at this, and he’s become our No. 2. He stays in the zone, he’s gotten so he can finesse some hitters, and he’s won two or three games for us going the distance, so he’s really come alive for us.”
Developing into a fearsome tandem with junior pitching ace Brittan Cross, Williams continued the trend of stymieing opposing offenses during the recent surge by the Panthers.
Belleville Henderson has given up 14 total runs during its win streak, with only LaFargeville scoring more than two in a game. The Panthers beat the Red Knights, 18-4, on April 26.
“Just throwing strikes, limiting errors, making plays in the field, we’re just playing good as a team,” Williams said of the recent success in limiting opposing batters.
“We need to keep playing consistently and stay together,” he later added. “Everyone is enjoying the game while we’re playing it, and we’re having a good time.”
Brandon Dodge paced the Panthers lineup with a triple and a single. He reached three times overall, scored two runs and stole a base.
Josh Hemingway drove in two runs for Belleville Henderson, Evan Howard provided an RBI single, while Cayden Randall and Chris Vaughn each knocked in a run. The Panthers methodically built on their advantage by scoring in every inning until their final at-bats in the sixth.
They rallied to extend their win streak the night prior, scoring four runs in the top of the seventh inning to claim a 5-2 victory at South Lewis.
“It’s been a lot of different things,” Gibbs said. “Our hitting is better, it’s been a lot better the last couple games, (Tuesday’s comeback) kind of proved it. That meant a lot to them, and they battled.”
Sullivan’s RBI-triple highlighted the offense, and Logan Jordal singled twice for the Golden Knights (6-7, 5-6), who have lost six of their last seven games to fall out of the “D” Division title chase.
Belleville Henderson hasn’t lost since suffering a 4-2 home setback to Lyme on April 20.
The Panthers and Lakers (9-2) split their regular-season series and entered the day tied in the loss column atop the league’s “D” Division.
Belleville Henderson will next play Friday at Copenhagen for the first of three games remaining before the postseason begins.
“What’s going to be key for us is to stay focused,” Gibbs said. “We don’t look ahead, on Friday we go back to Copenhagen, and we don’t look ahead of it. They know that we’ve got to keep doing the things we’ve been doing to stay on top.”
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