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Tinkering Gremlins: Karns City Adjustments Pay Off Again in Another 10-0 Victory, This One Over North Clarion

BUTLER, Pa. (EYT/D9) — With his offense struggling, Karns City baseball coach Josh “Sluggo” Smith and his coaching staff took a hard look at the lineup.

And made some changes.

Good ones, it seems.

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After the tinkering, the Gremlins have won a pair of 10-0 games on back to back days.

Karns City dispatched Forest by that score on Monday and did the same to North Clarion Tuesday afternoon at Michelle Krill Memorial Field at Historic Pullman Park.

“Hitting is contagious,” Smith said. “The offense was there. It just needed to come out. We switched some guys around and got some new guys in the lineup, like (Tyler Hutchison), and bang bang.”

Hutchison made an immediate impact moving into the starting lineup at third base.

He went 2-for-2 with three RBI. Situational hitting was key for Hutchison, who had two sacrifice flies to help the Gremlins’ offensive onslaught.

“I take the same approach at the plate,” Hutchison said. “Like Coach says, just do your job. Put the ball in play.”

Michael Neff also broke out with a 3-for-3 days, including a double, triple and three RBI.

The last two days are a good sign for a team that has been Jekyll and Hyde at the plate this season.

Six wins have produced 60 runs. Three losses have only resulted in seven runs for Karns City (6-3).

“We had to find something that works,” Smith said. “We had a couple of tough losses, and at that point you have to make some changes and make some moves. They’ve been good young men about it. They understand their roles and what they need to get into the lineup.”

Like Hutchison.

“He waited his turn and earned his shot,” Smith said.

Hutchison, a sophomore, said he wants to stay in the lineup.

“It’s exciting for sure,” Hutchison said. “I was hitting the ball solid today. Feeling good.”

So was Mallik Metcalfe — for most of the game.

The senior got the win, striking out five in four innings while only giving up singles to Zeelan Hargenrader and Isaac Gilara.

He left the game after suffering a leg cramp while running the bases. Smith said it is nothing serious.

He was vintage Metcalfe on the mound, bombarding the strike zone with a moving fastball and an array of off-speed pitches.

Metcalfe threw 45 pitches — 39 for strikes.

Freshman Jacob Jones worked a scoreless fifth. He threw 10 pitches — nine for strikes.

Monday against Forest, Hunter Troutman threw a one-hit shutout on 54 pitches — 45 for strikes.

Karns City pitchers have thrown 16 balls in two games — an extraordinary feat.

“We’re a strike-throwing team,” Smith said. “When you command the zone, other teams have to swing at stuff, even if the ball is three inches outside because they knew you are always around the plate.”

For North Clarion (1-2), just playing a game was a sort of victory.

It was only the third game of the season for the Wolves, who have been hamstrung by the poor weather.

“We’re just not prepared yet,” said North Clarion coach Mike Canter. “We haven’t spent a whole lot of time in the field this year.”

Canter is hopeful that when the weather improves and his team can finally get into a rhythm on a an actual baseball field and not inside a gym, the fortunes will change for the Wolves.

“It’s tough right now,” Canter said. “We’ve spent a lot of time in the gym because everything is wet where we’re at. It’s a good group of kids and their confidence is still up. I got on them a little bit today because they were hanging their heads a little bit at the end of the game. We just can’t do that. I’m confident we have a good team. We should make the playoffs.”

The problem now for North Clarion is when the Wolves do get outside on their field, it will likely involve playing a game.

“We’re in a situation now where we’re going to have five-game weeks,” Canter said. “This is probably one of my better groups of kids that I’ve ever coached. I’m confident they are going to pick it up here.”