Mike Beckman wasn’t supposed to be the star of North’s 5-2 win at Western Reserve Conference rival Mayfield on Friday.
It just turned out that way.
The sophomore was an emergency replacement for starting pitcher Seth Higham, was injured rounding third base in the top of the first inning. Higham never threw a pitch but Beckman did and he led the Rangers to their biggest win of the season.
“He’s a sophomore in his first year up and to be put in a situation like that is unbelievable,” North coach Kyle Stahlberg said. “I can’t say enough about the situation he was put in and rising to it as a sophomore like that.”
Stephen Davies led off the game with a single and Zach Mitchell reached on a sacrifice bunt that gave the Rangers runners at first and third with nobody out. Davies scored on an error and Mitchell moved up to second on the same play.
Higham then roped a 1-1 pitch into left field for a 2-0 lead. He suffered his injury when turning the corner at third after Brendan Collins singled. Nick Stuck replaced Higham at third and scored on Brandon Swearingen’s single.
While Stuck replaced Higham on the base paths the Rangers turned to Beckham on the hill.
Beckham pitches for the varsity squad but spends most of his time with the JV. He made the trip to Mayfield as an emergency pitcher.
“I brought him with us as kind of insurance in case we needed another pitcher,” Stahlberg said. “I said, ‘Go warm up.’ He ran down there and warmed up and got ready.”
The timing didn’t leave Beckham with much time to panic.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, I was expecting to relieve but then I had to start and everything was coming at me so fast,’” Beckman said. “I had little time to warm up, so I just threw as many as I could get in that little time. My coach just told me to go out there and do your best and throw some strikes and that was my way of focusing on the task at hand.”
Beckman walked the first batter he faced and gave up a double later in the inning as the Wildcats cut North’s lead to 3-1.
After that, he settled in and pitched five scoreless innings before being relieved with two outs in the seventh.
“My changeup was really working for me today,” Beckman said. “I threw a lot more than I usually do because it is a feel pitch for me and I was feeling it today. This really boosted my confidence for games to come. I feel like I am a part of the varsity guys now.”
Beckman also recorded his first varsity at-bat.
He grounded out in the third inning, was hit by a pitch in the fifth and hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh to give the Rangers a 5-1 lead.
“Pitching-wise, he’s ready to be up there (on varsity) but he’s still working on some things with the bat,” Stahlberg said. “He was thrust into the three-hole and he got hit by a pitch one time and in the seventh inning we moved a guy over to third base and with two strikes he absolutely launched one deep into right field. The guy ended up catching it but it was a huge insurance run on the sac fly. It was an unbelievable job against a team like Mayfield, who in my opinion is one of the better teams you’re going to see.”
Mitchell singled, stole two bases and scored on an error in the fifth inning for the Rangers, who allowed one run in the seventh although it could have been worse.
Mayfield’s Jake Crouch hit a pinch-hit single with one out and tried to move to third on Cole Zak’s double but he was gunned down by North left fielder Justin Fair.
“It was just a rifle into third base,” Stahlberg said of Fair’s throw. “There were only two outs and he threw a guy out at third when they were threatening. That was a big play. I’m proud of him for that.”
Sam Michalski replaced Beckman on the mound and hit a batter then forced a ground out to record the save.
Mitchell and Collins led the Rangers with two hits each.