It’s been all about pitching for the Benton baseball team, which is off to a 12-6 start this season.
The Rangers have a team ERA of just 2.22, and one reason why is the play of Zach Avery.
The senior is 3-2 on the mound with a 1.99 ERA in seven appearances, which also includes one save.
“It feels great to always give my team a chance to win ball games,” Avery said. “I started off the first game of the season pretty rough, but once I got back in my routine, it has been a lot easier.”
Avery gave up five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched in a loss to Carterville to open the campaign. Since then, he’s been very good on the mound.
Benton has a team batting average of just .238 this year, so the squad is fortunate that the pitching has been good.
“Yeah, it’s been rough at times,” Avery said. “Part of the deal is we can’t get many guys all hitting at the same time right now, and everyone has been streaky. When it’s been cold outside the ball hasn’t really been travelling.”
Ian McMahon is 4-1 with an ERA just under 1.00 for Benton, and Hamilton Page is 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA.
“For me and McMahon and Page not giving up many runs, that’s a big reason we’ve been able to stay in games,” Avery said. “Our defense has done a really good job, too.”
The Rangers are in first place in the SIRR Ohio Division with a record of 4-0.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have played so many more games than everyone else,” said Benton coach Brett Blondi. “Zach has been a guy that has pitched against a lot of the best guys from other teams. He has really kept us in games. He is throwing the ball really well.”
Avery pitched 8 1/3 innings against Mount Vernon and lost 2-1 in nine frames earlier this season. He only allowed one earned run in that contest. Recently, Avery threw a complete game shutout in a 1-0 win over Massac County, in which he gave up just four hits.
“That was a great game, and I was a little nervous because Massac had been doing really well,” Avery said. “But once I stepped on the mound, I just started focusing on getting each out, and I was locked in. Some of my teammates made some great plays behind me. Limiting the amount of runners on base was the key to winning that game.”
Once the postseason rolls around, Benton should be set as far as pitching goes.
“I feel like it doesn’t matter who we play, as long as one of the three of us is on, we can play with anybody,” Avery said. “Our catcher, Brett Bonenberger, really helps me focus on the batters and not as much on the runners.”
Avery throws a good curveball along with his fastball among his four-pitch arsenal.
“He understands that even when the offense isn’t producing, sometimes you have to win that 1-0 game,” Blondi said. “He’s not coming in, and we’re beating teams 10-0 or other blowouts. A pitch here or there can make a big difference. Zach has been in a lot of really close games. I think the Mount Vernon game helped him in the Massac game. Those tough games against tough opponents will hopefully make him better as the season goes along and prepare him for his next step in college at John A. Logan.”