Dush dazzles in CHS win over Blair
There were flashes of potential two weeks ago when Connor Dush closed out, up to that night, the only win of the season for Columbus High School baseball.
That potential was even more obvious on Friday evening when the Discoverer junior went seven complete with eight strikeouts and pitched his team to a 3-2 win over Blair. Columbus is now 2-4 on the season, and Dush has had a hand in both at some point, shutting down opposing hitters as a closer and now a starter.
His performance was crucial for any success Columbus hoped to have Friday and Saturday. The Discoverers play twice over a two-day stretch with Friday’s game then an invite featuring two more contests Saturday afternoon.
It could have been a lot to think about for a guy making his first-ever varsity start. Whatever nerves or anxiety there might have been, Dush gave no indication.
He struck out five hitters through the first three innings and enjoyed a 3-0 cushion at that point thanks to a home run, infield single and RBI-walk from his teammates.
Those teammates came up big on a double play in the sixth with a runner on and no outs. Dush then helped his own cause, doubling up a runner on a bunt pop up in front of the plate in the seventh.
Two batters later he forced a ground ball to second and walked off the mound with his first-ever varsity win.
“We had some tough games earlier this week, and it was important for me to get my teammates going and get myself going, also, to save some pitching for the next two games tomorrow and hopefully get wins tomorrow,” Dush said.
“I just try to stay composed. Our defense, I know we’ve got a great defense, and they’ll back me up whenever I need them to, and they did that today and helped us get a win.”
Dush struck out one in the first, the side in the second, then one each in the third, fourth and fifth.
His final line included the eight Ks, six hits, one walk and one earned run. Three of his strikeouts were looking.
“A lot of just outside, two-seam fastballs,” Dush said about what was working. “We’ve got this nice cross wind, and my two-seam cuts to the right. With the wind also going to my right also, it kind of gets that extra cut in there. My changeup was working well, also.”
Dush faced one over the minimum through the first two innings then took a 3-0 lead into the third on a homerun from Caden Pelan, infield hit with the bases loaded by Tyler Palmer and walk in the following at bat pushing across another run from CJ Fleeman.
Pelan’s solo shot to left field came with two outs and kept the inning alive for more thanks to Columbus patience at the plate. The home run bounced off the very top of the fence and carried over for a 1-0 advantage.
Cade Fullner, Tyler Wessel and Colby Gilson then all walked setting up Palmer for a big RBI opportunity. His line drive through the left side was knocked down by the third baseman but left no play to be made, scoring Fullner.
Fleeman then walked bringing in Wessel. A strikeout in the next at bat ended the threat.
Columbus had two more on in the third with one out but failed to capitalize, stranded two in the fourth with two outs and left another on in the fifth.
Palmer’s infield single was the final Columbus hit of the contest. The Discoverers managed just two hits but walked eight times and reached base once on a hit batter.
That left it up to Dush who gave up an unearned run in the fourth on back-to-back one out singles and an error at first base. Up 3-1 in the fifth, he allowed his only earned run on a leadoff single, walk, sac bunt then sac fly.
The Blair leadoff hitter reached in the sixth on a single but was wiped out in the next at bat when Dush induced a ground-ball double play.
The Bears were on base again with a leadoff hit in the seventh but failed on a bunt attempt to advance the runner. Dush caught the failed bunt in front of the mound then rifled it over to Wessel at first for another double play.
After a two-out Blair single he ended it on a ground ball to second.
“I can’t say enough about how (Dush) did out there. Just filled up the strike zone and gave us a chance,” coach Jimmy Johnson said. “I was excited for his start. We know what he’s capable of. We’ve seen it in practice. To see him execute it, and the way he pitched tonight, it’s exciting for him and our team.
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org