KENT — "We’re not young anymore."
Zac Common said it.
Lucius Ivory said it.
The Rough Riders played like it.
Common pitched a no-hitter, Ivory came up with two big at-bats and a key catch and host Kent Roosevelt picked up a 10-0 run-rule victory over Aurora Tuesday afternoon.
"Honestly, we’re just focused on getting better," Ivory said. "We didn’t do perfect this game, but by the end of the season, we definitely want to. We want to take this team far, and, like coach said, we’re done (with) saying, ‘Oh, next year we’ll be great.’ This year, we should be great. Looking forward to it."
It wasn’t long ago when the Greenmen, always one of the top programs in the area, run-ruled the Rough Riders.
"It definitely shows that all the preparation we’ve done over the past offseasons has worked," Ivory said. "We trust our coaches to put us in these positions and he trusts us to perform."
A dreamlike day for the Rough Riders (3-0, 1-0 Suburban American) didn’t get off to a dreamlike start.
Common threw five straight balls to start the game. Even after placing a slider on the outer black for the first out, Common was far from out of the woods. Greenmen first baseman Carter Gerbrick fouled three breaking balls into the dirt to stay alive, ultimately working an 11-pitch walk. Common blasted a high heater for an inning-ending strikeout to strand a pair of Aurora runners at the corners.
The junior went on to retire 11 of the final 13 batters he faced Tuesday, striking out seven on the afternoon, helped by two double plays behind him.
"When I have that defense behind me, I just have so much more confidence in my pitches," Common said. "It just lets me throw strikes. I don’t have to worry about where they’re going to hit it or when they’re going to hit it."
The bottom of the first also started in the Greenmen’s favor, but centerfielder Riley Day rallied from a 1-2 count to work a two-out walk, stole second and scored on Nathan Ritchey’s grounder to first base that Aurora couldn’t quite turn into an out.
"(Day’s) plate discipline is as good as I’ve seen," Roosevelt coach Michael Haney said. "He goes out and grinds at-bats out or he controls them from the outset."
In the bottom of the second, it was a similar story.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Ivory chased a pair of breaking balls in the dirt, but laid off a 1-2 offering outside, fouled a 2-2 heater back and took consecutive pitches low and inside to work the run-scoring walk.
"Once I got fooled on both of those breaking balls, great on the pitcher," Ivory said. "My process was just don’t try to force too much out of the ball, foul a couple of balls off if I need to, and do what I need to do to get on base."
After recovering at the plate, Ivory recovered in the field. With a runner on first and no outs in the top of the third, Aurora second baseman Evan McVay lofted a fly to right. Ivory stayed still for a moment, before breaking back and extending his glove high in the air for the catch, then turning and firing to first for the double play.
"Off the bat, I thought it was a blooper, right over the second baseman Matt Dile," Ivory said. "It definitely fooled me."
Roosevelt led 2-0 despite not having a hit.
Then, the Rough Riders started hitting.
Ritchey ripped a grounder between third and short to lead off the third, Dile followed with a liner to the left-field gap and designated hitter Garrett Slippy loaded the bases with a liner up the middle. First baseman Spencer Townend let a 3-2 pitch go for a bases-loaded walk, left fielder Zane Cramer dropped a safety squeeze to make it 4-0, Slippy sprinted home on a wild pitch and shortstop Nathan Renkes delivered an RBI grounder for a 6-0 lead.
There were no long balls.
Just situational baseball at its finest.
"We know with the pitching we’re going to see in this league, that’s the kind of stuff we’re going to have to do to be successful," Haney said. "This has been a young group and we’re not young anymore and they’ve put the time in and we expect to come out and have these types of results."
In the fourth, after Ivory’s leadoff single and two walks loaded the bases, Dile came up with a sacrifice fly, Slippy made it 8-0 with a grounder between third and short and Ritchey scored Roosevelt’s ninth run on a wild pitch.
"I said they may be young, things like that, but the status of 60 feet, six inches hasn’t changed since they were in seventh grade," Greenmen coach Michael Brancazio said. "We eliminate those walks, hit batsmen, we’re fumbling the ball in the infield, we’re looking at a four, five-run game.
"We looked like a team that lacks experience. You look at everything. Our offensive approach leaves a lot to be desired. Defensively, our alignment is not where it needs to be. Bottom line is we just have to get outside and get better. That’s the bottom line."