By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
WHEELER – While Will Robertson didn’t go deep at the plate, from the pitching rubber he kept the ball, for the most part, between him and his catcher.
You could also say he kept it in the family.
Robertson, who made headlines this week for homering three times in an inning, with two of those round-trippers being grand slams, struck out 19 Wheeler High batters and his first cousin, catcher Cameron Russell, had three hits, including two doubles, and scored three runs to lead Falkner High to a 7-1 MHSAA Division 1-1A win on the road over Wheeler Thursday night.
Despite failing to homer for the fifth consecutive game, Robertson did deliver a two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh.
“He’s hot right now. You gotta give it to him,” said Wheeler senior standout pitcher and potent hitter Brandon Woodruff, a Mississippi State signee.
Robertson (5-2) tied both his season and career high in strikeouts in a complete-game performance that consisted of 123 pitches, 84 of those for strikes. He struck out 19 in a win against Thrasher on March 22.
“I was really tired and then the adrenaline kicked in that last inning,” said Robertson, who ended up with four strikeouts in the final frame as Blade Jones reached safely after swinging at a third strike in the dirt that skipped towards the backstop.
The Falkner senior, who relied a lot on his fastball, also struck out four in the top of the first, then the side the very next inning and two batters apiece in the third through sixth innings.
In fact, the right-hander has K’d 37 batters in his last two starts. A week ago versus Thrasher, he nearly equaled his total from the first time around – and Thrasher isn’t a bad-hitting team: They beat Woodruff and the Eagles on March 11.
“He was coming out of basketball and he didn’t really have a lot of time to get his arm in shape,” said Chip Johnson, Robertson’s basketball and baseball coach. “So, we were really easy with him early and then we just progressively continued to work him.”
The Falkner senior walked three, hit a batter and scattered four hits.
“He was staying away,” Woodruff said of his four plate appearances against Robertson on Thursday night, “but then he would mix a curveball in, which started at about my knees on the inside corner.
“Those are the ones I swung at and missed, because it would start and then it would just break downward.”
Woodruff, who didn’t pitch, was one of eight Eagles hitters to K at least twice on the night. But he was the only one with an extra-base hit – a double in the bottom of the fourth – and a run scored.
Colby Heavener drove him in with a single to left in the last half of the sixth.
“That one hit I got, I just got on it. I couldn’t wait on it like I did the other two at-bats,” Woodruff said about becoming aggressive early in the count.
What shouldn’t get lost in the hype is that Falkner (9-11, 5-4) won a key division game against a Wheeler team (9-6, 5-4) that it is battling with for a playoff spot. Wheeler won the first matchup, 3-1, on March 29.