Chris Pedretti was hoping to have his pitching staff a little more settled by the opening of Central Valley Conference play.
Consistency from the starters and bullpen eluded the Merced College baseball team through the first nine games. The exception to that rule has been sophomore Noah Gapp, making him the easy choice for Tuesday afternoon’s CVC opener with Porterville.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander reaffirmed that choice, turning in the team’s best start of the season. The big Canadian allowed one run and six hits in eight innings, and the Blue Devils’ offense provided plenty of support as Pedretti’s squad cruised to a 15-3 victory at Blue Devil Field.
“I feel like I’m finding a rhythm,” said Gapp, who improved to 2-1. “I’ve been trying hard to just go pitch by pitch and learn from my mistakes. Hopefully, some of my teammates have been watching and can do the same.
“I was able to throw some strikes and stay aggressive. It always helps when you get some run support. That let me stay aggressive and let my defense take care of things behind me.”
The Blue Devils (6-4, 1-0 CVC) had a fresh lesson on the consequences of easing off the gas too early in their heads after squandering an 11-0 lead against Cypress over the weekend. That wouldn’t be an issue Tuesday.
Gapp was the model of efficiency, tossing 84 pitches in his eight innings. He struck out four, walked none and didn’t allow a Porterville (3-8, 0-1) runner in scoring position until the eighth. It was Gapp’s second quality start in his last three outings.
“He was very good,” Pedretti said. “He consistently threw strikes and pitched ahead in the count. He was at like 65, 66 pitches through seven innings, so clearly he was pitching well. And some early runs tend to do a lot for your confidence.”
There was no shortage of support, as every Blue Devils starter had at least one hit. Merced scored in six of its eight at-bats and was retired in order once.
Designated hitter Curtis Kellogg led the barrage, going 4 for 5 with a double and two RBIs. Adam Nascimento, Jimbo Pernetti and Yuko Saito each went 3 for 5. Even the Merced bench was swinging a hot bat, going 4 for 6 with four doubles and five RBIs.
“It was awesome to see so many guys get on base in front of you. It makes you want to go up and keep it going,” Kellogg said. “It’s huge when you get a pitching performance like that. Knowing you only need three or four runs to win makes everyone a little more relaxed at the plate.
“After our trip down south, I think we feel like we can hit against anybody. We only went 1-2, but we had offensive success and I think that carried over into this game.”
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.