Note: This story appears in the Sunday, July 14 newspaper on Page B1.
The Southern Ohio Copperheads have dealt with upheaval in their pitching staff over the last two weeks.
Seven pitchers have left the roster, essentially since the start of July, including four starting pitchers.
With so much uncertainty, the Copperheads were able to turn to their stabilizing force on Friday.
Zach Iverson added to what has been a stellar summer, pitching the Copperheads to a 11-2 victory over the Xenia Scouts at Bob Wren Stadium.
Iverson has been one of the best pitchers in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. He improved to 5-0 in seven starts, the first pitcher in the league to reach five wins.
The win allowed Southern Ohio (18-15) to snap a brief two-game losing streak, as the Copperheads continue to battle for a playoff spot out of the South Division.
“He doesn’t lose when he’s on the mound,” Southern Ohio coach Austin Dunfee said. “The fact that we just had two rough games against Hamilton, we get to look forward to seeing Zach Iverson on the mound. Gives you a little breath of fresh air that, hey we’re going to win this game because our guy is on the mound today.”
Iverson gave the Copperheads seven strong innings on Friday, scattering eight hits. He allowed only one run, walking one and striking out four.
“It’s more important than I can put into words,” Dunfee said of the strong start.
Iverson leads the GLSCL in ERA (0.93) and is second in both strikeouts (52) and innings pitched (45.0).
Friday showed some versatility in Iverson’s game as well. A strikeout pitcher all summer, Iverson only had four punch outs against the Scouts.
However, he was still able to get outs and the Copperheads were clean in the field behind him.
“That’s what shows a good pitcher, when you don’t have your best stuff on any given day, but you still compete in the strike zone and find a way to get guys out when you don’t have the electric fastball, breaking ball that you’re used to having,” Dunfee said.
Iverson’s efforts have come as a bit of surprise too, considering he didn’t come to the Copperheads as a pitcher.
Iverson primarily played third base last spring at Michigan State, pitching only 6 1-3 innings all of last season.
“He’s not even really a pitcher,” Dunfee said. “I think the fact that his arm is well rested and he has a little bit of a pitching background has given him an edge. He’s just been setting the league on fire.”
Iverson pitched two perfect innings — the fourth and sixth frames — and stranded seven baserunners in the other five innings against Xenia (17-17).
Iverson left the bases loaded in the fifth when he got Hunter DeLanoy to hit a soft liner to shortstop Phillip Glasser.
Xenia’s only run came in the seventh on Logan Matson’s RBI double. However, the defense had Iverson’s back.
Right fielder Reese Trahey relayed the ball back to the infield, resulting in catcher Tanner Johnson applying a tag on Brett Williams at home plate for the final out of the inning.
The Copperheads were able to provide Iverson with an early lead on Friday, going ahead 4-0 after four innings.
Southern Ohio was able to blow the game open thanks to a three-run sixth, and a four-run eighth inning.
Jared Heard led the offense with a three-hit game, adding three RBIs and three runs scored.
Lucas Nasonti, Trahey, Tanner Glass and Daniel Cruz added two-hit games. Johnson scored three runs, remarkably being hit by a pitch on four consecutive at-bats.
Southern Ohio also took advantage of eight walks issued by Xenia pitching.
Jacob Ladley made his summer debut on the mound after joining the Copperheads on Thursday. He pitched the final two innings, allowing a run.
“We hadn’t seen him pitch in a live-game scenario,” Dunfee said. “To have a little bit of run support with the uncertainty of what that guy may or may not do out there makes it a little bit easier to just let him go work through some things.”
The Copperheads were able to keep pace in the tight GLSCL South Division, where four teams were within a half-game of first place entering Saturday’s games. Only three of those teams will qualify for the postseason.
After facing Xenia again on Saturday, the Copperheads will host the Scouts again on Sunday at 5:35 p.m. in the series finale before entering the all-star break.
“With nine games left in the season, this is the time of the year where you want your team to start getting hot,” Dunfee said. “We’re making a playoff push. You can get hot going into the playoffs, let that thing build and roll into the playoffs. We have a very good chance of winning the whole thing. This is step one of that process.”
Southern Ohio 11, Xenia 2
Xenia 000 000 110 — 2 9 1
Southern Ohio 021 103 04x — 11 13 0
Garrett DeClue, Christopher Mosley (5), Keagen Grantham (8) and Allan Goodwin
Zach Iverson, Jacob Ladley (7) and Tanner Johnson
WP — Iverson; LP — DeClue