ELYRIA — Evan Troutman may still be learning how to pitch at the young age of 11, but he’s picking it up pretty fast.
Troutman pitched the final four innings Friday as Elyria’s 11U Little League All-Stars beat Avon 7-2 to win the District 3 title. Troutman struck out six and allowed three hits and an unearned run. He didn’t walk a hitter.
“He’s a good pitcher,” said Isaac Johnson, Elyria’s coach. “You might not believe it, but he became a pitcher this year. He played mostly first base (prior). I’ve had him in football since he was 5, but this is just the second year I’ve had him in baseball.”
In two tournament games against Avon, Troutman struck out 15 and walked only one in seven innings. He picked up both victories.
Had Avon managed to win Friday, the teams would have been back in action today in the double-elimination tourney, but Troutman and Co. took care of business.
“I know my defense has my back,” Troutman said. “(Avon) had a couple good hits. This is my first year playing in Elyria and my first year in all-stars. It feels good (to win the district).”
Elyria advances to the state tournament in Cambridge, starting next Saturday against Washington Court House.
Half of Elyria’s six hits went for extra bases, but it was Elyria’s aggressive baserunning that made the big difference.
“I teach the kids to be aggressive and use what God gave them,” Johnson said. “If the ball’s in the dirt, I tell them to go. They listen well. We practice this stuff.”
Passed balls, wild pitches, missed catches on strike threes — they all added up to beat Avon.
Elyria, the visiting team on the tournament draw, drew first blood in the top of the first. Owen Schroeder doubled in the left-center-field gap with one out and scored on Isaiah Johnson’s two-out, opposite-field triple down the first base line. Johnson scored on Troutman’s line single to left.
Avon answered with a run in the bottom of the first, as Shane Putka’s two-out double to right-center scored Teddy Budinger. But Elyria added three runs in the top of the third on just one hit — Johnson’s single to left.
“All the team’s been hitting,” Isaiah Johnson said. “We’ve made some really good defensive plays and great pitching all-around from everybody.”
“That’s my son,” the coach said. “I work with him a lot. I put a lot of pressure on him. He knows what to do. I had that growing up, too, with my dad in football.”
Isaac Johnson’s father is Elyria Hall of Famer Tim Johnson, a great football and track runner at Elyria High. Isaac was an outstanding quarterback and point guard.
“They play heads-up baseball,” Avon coach Jeremy Griffiths said. “They play heads-up against the little errors that we made. We didn’t make many of them, but they took advantage of every one of them. That’s what good ball teams do. They’re a good fundamental team.”
Elyria added runs in the fourth and sixth innings. Mateo Medina reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on another muffed strike three that put Schroeder on first.
In the sixth, Mateo Lopez doubled to left, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on Medina’s perfectly placed bunt.
Avon’s other run scored when Zach Cordell singled and advanced to second on an error. He moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Adam Butler’s grounder.
Griffiths, an Avon Lake Hall of Famer who pitched for the Mets in 2003, wanted his team ready for Troutman and provided extra batting practice Thursday.
“I threw about 300 pitches as hard as I can to get ready for their gas throwers,” he said with a smile. “I’m going to take a few Advil.
“We fought hard. We came out hot in the first inning and scored a run, but they’re a good team. I wish them well.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.