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Jimtown wins behind two Christman homers

ELKHART — Connor Christman seems to like his new spot in Jimtown's batting order.

Batting sixth, Christman belted two homers to lead the Jimmies past No. 7-ranked (Class 3A) South Bend St. Joseph, 4-2, in Northern Indiana Conference baseball action on Monday.

"Connor started out the season batting number two for us," said Jimtown baseball coach Todd Cook, whose team improved to 13-4 overall and 5-2 in the NIC. "He was moved him back in the lineup and we've seen him kind of take off with the stick in that new role. I don't know what has happened, but he's really put a charge into the back half of our lineup."

Christman's first homer in the bottom of the second inning was a two-run shot and it gave Jimtown a 2-1 lead.

In his second at-bat, Christman belted a solo homer to give the Jimmies a 3-2 lead in the fourth. Both homers by the right-hander went over the left field fence.

Those two homers were also Christman's first two career high school homers. It's Christman's first year on the varsity after spending his freshman and sophomore years on the junior varsity.

"I had one home run in summer ball," said Christman about his home run history.

Christman felt before the game that it could be a special day for him and his team.

"Before the game I told all my teammates that I had a good feeling about this game," Christman said.

"When I was in the box something was in me. I was on those fast balls. I kept fouling off pitches that weren't good to hit. Then I hit the pitches that were right down the middle. On the first one, the ball hit right off the barrel. The second time I was thinking line drive because I didn't want to make an out."

Christman, who walked during his third at-bat, was asked if he was going for his third homer.

"I just wanted to get a base hit," he said.

Those three runs would be enough run support for Jimtown starting pitcher Mason Armstrong, who improved to 3-0 on the season.

Armstrong, who went the distance for the third time this year, allowed one earned run, five hits, struck out five and walked two.

The junior hurler got out of first and second one-out jams in the fifth and sixth inning.

In the fifth for the third out, center fielder Ty Zartman made a great catch on a deep fly ball. In the sixth, Armstrong got a double play to end St. Joseph's scoring threat.

"I just trusted the guys behind me," Armstrong said about his mindset during those jams. "I know if I throw strikes they're going to play good defense behind me. We got that double play to get out of an inning and we had that line drive to center and Ty made a great play. I know that my teammates have my back when I'm out there."

Armstrong also had to work out of a mini-jam in the seventh. With two outs, Huskies' lead-off hitter Joe Washburn reached on an error. But he wouldn't move off first base, as Armstrong got a fly out to center end the game.

"I wasn't worried about it," Armstrong said about the error with two outs. "It was a two-run game and I was focused on getting the next guy out. I just wanted to keep throwing strikes. If they put the ball in play somebody on our team was going to make a play and that's what happened."

St. Joseph, which fell to 10-4 overall and 3-3 in the NIC, took a 1-0 lead in the first inning after scoring an unearned run. With runners on first and third with two outs, St. Joseph's Jayce Lee scored from third after a bad throw was made on a throw to second on a Huskies' steal attempt.

Lee's RBI groundout in the third tied the game at two.

The rest of the game, Armstrong held down the Huskies' offense. He threw 109 pitches.

"Mason's been battling all year for us on the mound," Cook said. "He comes out and gives 150-percent. He's one of those max effort guys. He made big pitches when he needed to. He was hitting his spots really good tonight. We also played really good defense behind."

The Jimmies took a 4-2 lead in the sixth after getting an RBI single from Cole Dutton. With a run in, Jimtown had the bases-load with one out, but were unable to add any more runs.

St. Joseph outhit Jimtown, 5-4, as Washburn and Brady Langager each collected two hits for the Huskies.

"We definitely needed to change our approach when we had scoring chances," said Huskies coach John Smolinski. "The double play (in the sixth) really took the wind out of us. That was a big spot for us and we didn't capitalize. But give credit to their pitcher. He threw over 100 pitches and did a great job."

Jimtown and St. Joseph will play again on May 24th around 7:45 p.m. in semifinal action at the Marian Sectional.

Cook was asked where Monday's win ranks among quality wins this year for his squad.

"This is up there" Cook said. "Winning the NIC is one of our goals. I'm sure it's one of St. Joseph's goals this year too. Any time you can take down a team like St. Joseph it's huge."

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JIMTOWN 4, SB ST. JOSEPH 2

St. Joseph;101;000;0—;2;5;1

Jimtown;020;101;0—;4;4;2

Thomas Eck (L), Jay Nuber (5); Mason Armstrong (W 3-0).

St. Joseph: Hits — Joe Washburn 2, Brady Langager 2. 2B — Langager. SB — Jayce Lee 2.

Jimtown: Hits — Connor Christman 2. HR — Christman 2. Runs — Christman 2.

Records: St. Joseph 10-4 (3-3 NIC), Jimtown 13-4 (5-2).