By Anthony Mitchell
The Daily Item
With his lead cut in half as he walked back out to the mound for the seventh inning, Mark Artley simply went back to the spots that had helped him through the first six frames.
Causing Shikellamy hitters to make weak contact, Artley quickly stopped thoughts of a rally, pitching a perfect seventh inning for a complete game.
Behind their senior right-hander, Milton shut down a potent Shikellamy offense, beating the Braves 4-2 in Heartland Athletic Conference Division I play Friday.
Shikellamy (4-3, 2-3 HAC-I) put runners on base against Artley to try to push a run across the plate, but the Milton (3-2, 3-2) hurler routinely reared back and escaped danger, causing the Braves to leave seven runners on base.
Artley sent nine Braves hitters back to the dugout after a strikeout, with each of the Braves’ three outs in the third coming on a strikeout.
“I knew I had to be mentally tough and take (the game) one inning at a time, one pitch at a time,” Artley said.
After Shikellamy left him in a precarious situation in the first and third innings with the bases loaded, Artley followed his own advice, kept command of his pitches and quickly walked back to the dugout with a zero on the scoreboard.
“(Artley) goes out there (and) challenges everyone,” Milton coach Chace Phillips said. “He’s not afraid to pitch to any guy in the lineup. He’s a great asset to have on your team.”
With Artley working to neutralize Shikellamy’s offense, a four-run second inning was all that Milton needed offensively.
After Brandon Stokes started the inning with a single, Jeff Levitan stepped to the plate and squared to sacrifice Stokes over to second.
Levitan laid a bunt down and beat the throw to first to put two men on with no outs.
After a popup, Cole Wirt and Lance Fogelman showed their patience at the plate as both counts ran full before earning walks. Wirt’s walk loaded the bases and Fogelman’s willingness to take a pitch gave Milton the first run of the game.
Levitan scored on an error with two outs and Brady Chappell wasted no time taking advantage, sending the first pitch he saw into left field for a two-run single to stretch Milton’s lead to 4-0.
After escaping a potential bounce-back inning in the third, Artley set the Braves down in order in the fourth.
The Braves came within a few feet of breaking up Artley’s shutout in the fifth, but K.J. Williams’ quick reaction on a single prevented a run from scoring.
Williams charged forward on a single from Colby Lahr and put a throw on line to Chappell to nab Kyle Leitzel at the plate.
Lahr and Leitzel forced Artley to pitch his way out of trouble, each finishing 3-for-3 at the plate.
“Anytime you come down to (Shikellamy), you’re gonna have to put together a great game to come away with a win,” Phillips said. “We did enough things to win a baseball game and at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters.”
With Artley keeping the ball in the infield for much of the game, Milton’s defense rifled throws around the diamond to beat runners to first and keep Shikellamy from rallying.
“It felt good knowing that I could trust my team behind me,” Artley said. “All I had to do was throw strikes and I knew they’d make the plays behind me.”
The Braves’ bottom of the order broke through in the sixth with a Chris Tasker RBI single getting them on the board. Tasker scored on an error in center to cut the Milton lead to 4-2.