Prep baseball: Superior's Nathan Maki holds Northwood/Solon Springs to one hit in Spartan victory
The Spartans senior was the recipient of the “Leo Leader” chain for the game’s most valuable player.
SUPERIOR — With game-time temperatures in the mid-40s, Superior pitcher Nathan Maki knew exactly what he needed to do to keep Northwood/Solon Springs in check Monday at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.
“I was just throwing strikes and trying to work in on their hands because it’s cold out there,” Maki said. “I was majority fastball — I feel like I was 90% fastball just trying to jam them. No one wants to hit when it’s cold like that.”
Maki didn’t allow a hit over six innings of work and struck out five while walking just one batter to lead the Spartans to a 7-1 win over NSS.
“He had his control, he got ahead early in the counts so they had to hit his pitches rather than the other way around,” Superior coach Ryan Hendry said. “They put the ball in play hard a couple of times on him, but his defense went to work for him and that’s really all it took.”
That was all it took for Maki to keep the Green Eagles in check, but the Spartans needed some good eyes and alert base-running to score.
NSS junior Kaden Corlett worked a strong first inning, but struggled over the next three. Corlett struck out six and allowed just two hits over three and a third innings, but walked four batters and threw six wild pitches, mistakes Superior took advantage of.
“Kaden threw a great first inning for us and then lost a little bit of control there in the second,” NSS coach Nate Ahlberg said. “They did a really good job of being aggressive on the bases. Any time the ball was in the dirt, they were taking an extra base on us.”
Corlett wasn’t helped by six fielding errors by the Green Eagles.
Maki’s velocity wasn’t as good as Corlett or relief pitcher Abe Ahlberg, but his control was the difference on a day when hits were hard to come by.
“It wasn’t that he was blowing our guys away, he was just hitting spots,” Ahlberg said. “I think both the guys we threw probably had him from a velocity standpoint … but it doesn’t matter how hard you throw it if you can’t put it into the strike zone or get guys to swing at it. We talked about it’s important to have command and throw with good velocity, and he has good velocity, but his command was better than what our two guys were able to throw with.”
For his efforts, Maki received the “Leo Leader” chain for the most valuable player of the game. The award was something Hendry started when he took over the Spartan baseball program last season . “Leo” is short for Leonidas, the King of Sparta who famously led a group of 300 Spartan hoplites against an entire Persian Army in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.
“You see it in the major leagues where guys get something for home runs or accomplishments during the game,” Hendry said. “I wanted to do a player of the game kind of thing to recognize guys that help their team win. Nate got it tonight, for instance, because he pitched six innings of shut-down baseball.”
The chain is reminiscent of the University of Miami’s “Turnover Chain,” only with a light blue S instead of the bejeweled U the Hurricanes use.
“It’s just a fun thing that we do, it’s like a morale boost,” Maki said. “You go out there, you play a great game and you get this big chain. It’s cool to have and walk around with it.”
Ahlberg said NSS has changed its strategy at the plate and on the basepaths this season to fit the personnel they are playing with.
“With our different crew this year, we’ve had to be a little bit more aggressive with situations,” Ahlberg said. “We’ve bunted more this year than we have in a lot of previous years and we’ve done what (Superior) did to us. We get a bunt down, the team throws it into right field and a couple runs score or guys are moving up.”
Superior (6-6) are next scheduled to host Wausau East at noon Saturday.
NSS (5-3) will play at Clear Lake at 5 p.m. Tuesday.