MONTESANO — Tucker Ibabao was far from overpowering. He was, however, all but unhittable.
Ibabao pitched a one-hitter as Montesano edged Elma, 1-0, in an Evergreen 1A League baseball game Tuesday at Vessey Field.
The victory kept the Bulldogs unbeaten at 9-0 in league and 10-0 overall. The Eagles slipped to 4-4 in league and 6-4 overall.
With neither team throwing their ace (Montesano’s Layne Bruner and Elma’s Layne Sutten were reserved for mound duty later in the week), the first meeting of the East County baseball rivals somewhat surprisingly turned into a classic pitchers duel.
The Bulldogs mustered only two hits — singles by Ibabao and Elliot Mendenhall that didn’t figure in the scoring — off Elma pitchers Andrew Hamilton and Austin Neary.
“I thought both sets of throwers, ours and theirs, did real well,” Elma coach Scott Rowland said. “I was real proud of my guys. Montesano’s a pretty good hitting team.”
Ibabao, however, kept the Eagles off-balance throughout with a steady diet of breaking stuff. Monte coach Mike Bruner estimated that his senior right-hander threw fastballs on perhaps 35 percent of his 78 pitches. He also demonstrated outstanding control, walking only one.
“He’s got a good fastball,” Coach Bruner asserted, “but he’s got good enough command of his curve that he can pitch backward a little bit. It speeds his fastball up.”
Allowing only three baserunners, Ibabao made a first-inning run stand up.
Shad Rogers worked Hamilton for a leadoff walk, stole second and advanced to third on Zack Nelson’s infield out. Nick Camenzind made a nice stop of Ibabao’s sharply hit grounder to short, but his throw to first was low and Neary (playing first base at the time) was unable to dig it out in time while Rogers scored.
That was the lone error of the ultra-fast (1-hour, 17-minute) contest. Since Rogers would have scored even had the out been recorded, Ibabao was credited with an RBI.
The Bulldogs loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth inning and advanced a runner to third with one out in the fifth but were unable to capitalize on either opportunity.
Ibabao, meanwhile, was working on a no-hitter through five.
Ricky Escalante broke that up with a clean single to left opening the sixth inning. But Ibabao turned Jesse Wolford’s bunt into a force-out at second base, then promptly picked Wolford off first.
That was Elma’s last baserunner, as Ibabao needed only 10 pitches to retire the side in order in the seventh.
Coach Bruner second-guessed himself for calling a pitch in what he termed the wrong location to Escalante. He was, however, rightfully pleased with Monte’s defense.
Third baseman Matt Jensen turned in the game’s undisputed defensive gem by making a diving stop of Sutten’s hot shot down the line in the second inning and springing to his feet to throw out the batter. Kody Usher made a running catch of Wolford’s well-hit drive to left field an inning later.
Elma third baseman Charlie Simpson also made a couple of fine defensive plays.
Both teams have doubleheaders slated for Thursday, with Monte traveling to Hoquiam and Elma hosting Rochester.
Elma 000 000 0 — 0 1 1 Monte 100 000 x — 1 2 0
Hamilton, Neary (4) and Black; Ibabao and Bussard.
RBI: Montesano — Ibabao.
Winning pitcher — Ibabao (walked one; struck out six). Losing pitcher — Hamilton (walked one; struck out three).