Inman American Legion baseball head coach Steve Skinner didn’t really know what to expect when he brought third baseman Blake Hansman in to pitch on a night when balls were flying all over Duncan Park Stadium.
Skinner had never seen Hansman pitch in a game.
It was 7-7 against Spartanburg in the fourth inning Thursday night, but the Boiling Springs High School player fired three hitless innings and was the winner in a 10-7 decision.
“I think we’re going to let him pitch again,” Skinner said.
Hansman struck out the side in the seventh and final inning, all batters going down against a devastating curve ball. He fanned the last four Spartanburg hitters and five of the last seven.
“When I get up in the count, that’s when I like to use the curve ball,” Hansman said. “After a throw that first strike, I like to come with it. Sometimes I like to throw one in the dirt. If I can get it going, it’s pretty deadly. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not. Tonight, it happened to be there.”
How soon did he have a good feel for the curve?
“Warming up,” Hansman said. “I threw the first one and I was like, ‘It’s there.’ ”
Inman (4-0) won it with three runs in the top of the fifth to break the tie. John Mike Faile had a one-out single. Patrick Agle and Andrew Greer then had back-to-back doubles to the left-field corner on successive pitches. After the second out, Jake Cothran doubled as well.
“Everybody hit it tonight,” Skinner said. “It was a hitter’s night.”
Faile was intentionally walked twice and when he was allowed to swing the bat, he went 3-for-3 with two doubles. Pearson Timmons also had two doubles and a single. Cothran had two hits and Hansman, before he switched to the mound, was 3-for-3.
Spartanburg (1-3) was slugging as well. Post 28 came back from five-run deficit to make it 5-4 in the second inning and a three-run deficit to make it 7-7 in the fourth. Daniel Wetmore, Bryson Gault and Jordan Gilliam had two hits each. Gault was 2-for-2, adding two walks.
“Guys on that team just won the state championship for Dorman,” Hansman said. “It’s a very good team with a bunch of good ball players.”
Inman escaped a bases-loaded situation with nobody out in the third. Cothran, the second pitcher already for Post 45, got a third-to-home-to-first double play and then with the bases loaded again after a walk, ended the threat with a strikeout.
Hansman came on for another bases-loaded jam in the fourth. He allowed an RBI single by Gilliam to tie the game, but then got a popup and a strikeout.
“I was impressed,” Skinner said. “He threw strikes, he had a good breaking ball and he kept them off-balance. That’s what you have to do against those guys because they hit it so well. You can’t just let them dig in and look for fastballs. … It was big for him to be able to finish so that we didn’t have to use somebody else. That leaves us with two or three pitchers for our last game this week.”
Inman plays host 7 p.m. Friday to Buffalo, which is at Spartanburg on Monday. Inman and Spartanburg will play a doubleheader 6 p.m. Tuesday at Inman Mills.
“It’s been a learning experience,” Spartanburg head coach Micah Stancil said. “We just have to keep plugging along.”