Luechauer Ks 10 In Complete Game Win For South Broward
It took a little while for South Broward to get going on Wednesday afternoon, but some small ball jumpstarted the Bulldogs’ offense late and led to a 10-1 victory over the Dr. Michael Krop Lightning.
Junior right-hander Johhny Luechauer was dominant on the mound for South Broward, holding Dr. Krop to just one run on the day and striking out 10 along the way. Bulldogs manager Darin Koch has leaned on Luechauer lately and wasn’t too surprised to see another strong outing from him.
“Actually, I did expect that from him,” Koch said of Luechauer’s outing. “He’s had five or so quality outings in a row. I think it might be his third complete game in a row. He’s always around the strike zone. He’s got really good control with the curveball. He kept his temperament really even keel, and he doesn’t want me to take him out of the game. Any time I ask how he feels, he says, ‘I feel great, coach; don’t take me out.'”
Luechauer has indeed thrown three complete games in a row for South Broward, and he’s thrown five and six innings in two other games. In fact, only his first start of the season failed to meet the standards of a quality start. That’s when Cooper City got to him for seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, but Luechauer has looked like a completely different arm than he did on opening day. He’s even added a new weapon to his arsenal.
“Some of my pitches weren’t on, but I introduced a slider today,” Luechauer said. “It started working, and I just kept throwing it. It worked.”
That slider had never been thrown in a real game by Luechauer until Wednesday, but he said that he was going to it once an at-bat by the second inning. Adding a pitch with a little horizontal movement to complement a fastball approaching 80 mph and a plus curve gives him three pitches to fall back on, which is not something most high schoolers can say.
Luechauer is also working on his two-seam fastball and his changeup.
It did take until the fourth for the Bulldogs to get Luechauer some run support, though. Dr. Krop starter Douglas Katz kept South Broward off the board until the fourth inning. Francisco Gomez laid down a squeeze bunt to score James Kelly and reach safely, and another run scored on an error from the infield. Gomez isn’t usually the type of player Koch will ask to lay down a bunt, but he said he was happy to answer the call and get the faucet trickling before the team really started to score.
A few more defensive miscues in the fifth led to a 5-1 game, and the Bulldogs continued to put up crooked numbers as the Lightning turned to bullpen arms for the sixth and seventh.
“The breeze always blows in here, so we talked about really trying to stay on top of the ball,” Koch said. “I think maybe we had one or two outs on fly balls all day long. So, the kids did a great job of hitting hard ground balls, line drives. We have not been great at the short game all year, but they did a really great job on that tonight. It might have been our best offensive day.”
Katz had a fine day on the mound and showed good velocity and command early. He finished the day with just one strikeout, but Katz was effective pitching to contact for most of the afternoon. At first, the defense held up and kept the game close, but things unraveled as the day progressed. Once the bullpen was called upon, outs became increasingly rare and the deficit slowly increased.
“We have a small team, so bullpen depth is something that’s on my mind as a starter,” Katz said. “I wanted to go as long as I could for my guys, but a few things went wrong here and there, which elevated my pitch count.”
When all was said and done, three Bulldogs finished the day with multiple hits. Gomez doubled and tripled in two runs later in the game, Kelly laid down his own squeeze bunt for a base hit en route to a three-hit day and catcher Thomas Giltner reached base three times, drove in two runs and score a pair himself.
The Lightning scored just one run all day, but it was the first of the contest and gave the home team a brief lead in the third. Josh Krutchik rocketed a ball past the third baseman for the team’s first hit of the day, stole second base, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch. He had to leave the game shortly after that, which was around the same time things went into a tailspin for the Lightning. That’s not to put any blame on Krutchik, but rather to highlight how quickly a ballgame can change after because of one position swap.
In the end, Lightning manager Paul Berrios had very little to say about the effort he saw from his club in the second half of the game. Dr. Krop has strung together wins this season and is only 5-7 on the year, but Berrios would like to see a bit more consistency from his group.
“That baseball team (South Broward) wanted this game more than we did, period,” Berrios said. “We’re playing at home, but they wanted this game more than we did. That’s it. They competed, but then they laid down.”
For South Broward, it certainly looks like the Bulldogs have found their ace, and the question now becomes whether they can compete for a district title or not. Both clubs are in 6A-15, and South Broward is now just one loss below both the top two teams in the division.
“Cooper City (10-5) and Nova (10-5) are at the top,” Koch said. “They’re tough, and anybody in our district actually can compete. I think we’re playing our best baseball right now. That’s four wins in a row for us, so hopefully we can keep that momentum going for another couple of weeks.”
Although the Bulldogs’ season opener against the Cowboys went poorly, the odds of Luechauer getting rocked again seem slim. A prove-it game against Nova next Wednesday might provide some good insight into a district that appears to be wide open for the taking.