At 5-foot-9 and 145 pounds soaking wet, Kolton Ingram cast a much less imposing presence on the mound than his pitching counterpart in Sunday’s Division II College World Series opener, Mercyhurst’s 6-5, 235-pound flamethrower Chris Villamont.
But looks can sometimes be deceiving.
While Villamont undoubtedly impressed the scouts in attendance at the USA Baseball Training Center with a fastball that topped out at 95 MPH, it was Ingram that turned in the most dominant performance in pitching the Cougars to a 8-1 victory.
The junior left-hander threw eight shutout innings, striking out 10 while allowing only four hits to lead his team into a winner’s bracket matchup against UC San Diego at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
“A lot of times people say there’s a difference between t pitcher and a thrower. I just try to go out there and try to pitch,” said Ingram, who improved to 13-3 on the season. “My game plan was to keep the crowd out of my head and keep the radar out of my head.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys trying to see how hard they were throwing. I just tried to keep my focus and try to give my team a chance to win.”
Although the Cougars were able to push seven runs across in the six innings Villamont was on the mound, they didn’t exactly knock the cover off the ball against him.
They did, however, take advantage of every scoring opportunity they were presented.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve scored first and we ended up winning most of those games,” leadoff man Grant Berry said. “We knew if we scored first, we’d have a good shot.”
Coach Greg Appleton’s South Region champions did just that, thanks to the aggressiveness of Berry, who got things started with a single up the middle on the first pitch he saw. Garrett Kirkwood followed with a walk. Both runners eventually came around to score on a big two-out hit by DH Chase Brown.
“The old saying is that you have to get a good guy early and we went out there and got a couple of runs,” Appleton said. “I think that took a little of the heat off us. Kolton pitched such a good game that once we got two, that was probably going to hold up.”
Even though Appleton turned out to be right and his team didn’t need any more runs, it still got three more in the fourth thanks to an assist from Mother Nature.
The Cougars (46-13) had already scored once on an RBI single by Gunar Drinnen when ninth hitter Drew Webb lifted what appeared to be a routine fly ball to right. What should have been the third out turned into a two-run double when Mercyhurst right fielder Jimmy Standohar lost the ball in the sun.
Berry increased the lead to 7-1 in the sixth by following a walk to Frank Wager and a Drinnen hit-by-pitch with a triple off the wall in right enter. CSU added its final run in the eighth off a pair of Lakers relievers.
Mercyhurst (36-14) finally broke through and spoiled the shutout in the ninth against reliever Jalen Latta. But that did little to keep the the Cougars from building on the momentum gained in last week’s come-from-behind region championship victories against Belmont Abbey.
“I think it’s big to come out here and win the first game and get your focus going,” Appleton said. “It builds confidence, for sure.”