Pitching duel out as Bears fall to Studs, 1-0

After Sam Hellinger of the Seattle Studs struck out his eighth batter in the bottom of the third—the Highline Bears could sense the kind of night they were going to endure.

But, Hellinger was pulled after just three innings and replaced by Ben Ruff. And for any team, it can be viewed as a good thing—a new opportunity to see something different. It was not the case for the Bears, as they mustered a mere one hit the rest of the game and managed to get one runner in scoring position, as they fell to the Studs, 1-0.

The Studs, who have been playing nearly seven games a week—ran through all their starters and rolled with just relievers against the Bears. Even though Hellinger was sterling to start—he was to pitch his three innings and give it up to the next guy.

“I committed to all three of the guys that they were each going to get their three innings,” head coach of the Seattle Studs, Barry Aden said. “Sam knew that is what he needs to do for us.”

It was a pitching duel out—as the Studs were not the only ones to befuddle their opposing offense. Highline was led by J.J. Asinas—pitching his last game for the Bears as he recently committed to play for a West Coast League team—the Kelowna Falcons.

Asinas threw a complete six innings, surrendering six hits, no walks and three strikeouts. His lone error came in the top of the second on a two-out single up the middle from Tanner Arrington to score Landon Riker from second that proved to be the difference. From there on out, it was downright dominance from him and reliever Dylan Spain. Spain tossed three innings, allowing one hit and striking out five batters—three of them in the top of the ninth.

“J.J had an absolute great performance,” head coach Josh Evans said. “That is probably one of the only times we are going to see Spain. He has a pitch limit on him, but they did a fabulous job out there.”

The Bears finally loomed to score in the bottom of the sixth. Armond Swanson ripped a double down the left field line and Brenden Duncan would push a bunt to the pitcher to advance Swanson—but Highline failed to capitalize. Alex Bryner struck-out looking—his third of the night—and Chase Anderson would barrel up the ball to left field—but the left fielder did not have to move a step for the third out.

It was expected to be difficult for the Bears offense to get much going—as Evans had much adulation for the Studs pitching staff.

“They always have a good staff right there,” Evans commented. “They are throwing guys that throw low 90’s and we couldn’t just get the front foot down in time. But, we are still having competitive at bats though.”

Highline’s two hits came from Armond Swanson, with his soft grounder in between the shortstop and third baseman and leadoff double in the sixth. Him and Chase Anderson (walk) were the only runners on base for the Bears.

“We come into the game against the Studs expecting to see velocity,” Swanson said. “I mean, the last few times we have played them we see guys throw 90-92, so it was not much of a surprise to see velocity. It is definitely an adjustment, but we were all mentally prepared to come in and see that.”

The Studs kept Highline’s defense on their toes all night. All throughout the game, Seattle hit the ball hard, but the infield was impenetrable with diving stops and keeping the ball in front of them. This included a great play by Swanson in the top of the eight, in which he dove to his left—stopping the hard ground ball from reaching the hole–stepped up and made the throw to end the inning.

“Defense was great—hands down,” Evans stated. “That is the key to keeping the game low right there.”

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