MILTON–Caleb Fausnaught developed a nasty slider last fall. The Williamsport senior also developed a positive mentality.
The power of both those developments came shining through Thursday at Milton.
Fausnaught used his slider and his approach to stymie an up-and-coming Black Panthers team, surrendering just one hit in five innings while helping Williamsport win, 9-2. Deacon Brown and Cayden Robertson each homered and Williamsport used two big innings to build a nine-run advantage while improving to 3-0.
“Over the last year or so, I’ve dealt with a lot of adversity and I’ve kind of learned to have the mentality of just going out there and making the most of it,” Fausnaught said. “You never know when you’re going to get back out there, so I just went out there, knowing I had great players behind me, and had the mentality to dominate and just chuck.”
Fausnaught struck out nine, walked none and threw 2/3 of his 71 pitches for strikes. The tall right-hander allowed just a second-inning single and went to three-ball counts just twice. The game was scoreless until Williamsport scored four runs in the third inning, but one had the feeling that even if it was just 1-0 that the Millionaires would have been safe.
That was how impressive Fausnaught was. Working with catcher Caden Helmrich, Fausnaught brilliantly mixed his pitches and used his slider to consistently put hitters away, striking out at least one hitter each inning and multiple batters four times.
He only pitched six innings last season, but Fausnaught quickly proved Thursday what a valuable asset he can be moving forward. He also showed how he has put that past behind him and learned how to keep moving forward, no matter the situation.
“Transitioning between basketball straight into baseball is always hard, and when things don’t go your way, baseball is a tough mistress,” Fausnaught said. “Just being able to go out there and enjoy my time out there is a blessing, and I’m hoping to do it a lot more this season.”
“I wanted him to come up big because he can be one of our big pitchers and he did exactly that. He pounded the zone and he did exactly what I asked of him when the season started,” Williamsport coach Kyle Schneider said. “His off-speed was really good, his confidence was high and the guys had his back. The guys put together good at-bats for him, they gave him the lead and once we got that lead, he pitched like we had a lead and that’s fun to watch.”
So was Williamsport’s offense.
The Millionaires scored at least nine runs for a third straight game and produced 11 hits. Robertson (3 for 5) led the way, while Brown, Cole Shuler and Griffin Vollman all delivered two hits. Williamsport scored four runs in the third inning to take the lead, and then started pulling away with a five-run fifth inning which made it 9-0.
Brown set the offensive tone in his second at-bat when he blasted a two-run home run the opposite way, easily clearing the left field fence and putting Williamsport ahead to stay. The Rhode Island-bound junior worked a full count before staying with the pitch and driving his home run off the bottom of the scoreboard. Shuler, Robertson and Vollman followed with hits and Williamsport went up, 4-0.
“Deacon’s home run got everyone going. That was a shot,” Schneider said. “Cayden had a big game and guys came through all day. I was really happy with the way everyone played.”
Robertson’s home run to straight away center field ignited the five-run fifth inning charge. Quentin Mazzante added a two-run single, giving him an RBI hit for a third straight game before Brown added an RBI single later in the inning.
The way Fausnaught was throwing, that 9-0 lead might as well have been 90. He had Milton off-balance all afternoon and struck out five looking while producing multiple swings and misses each inning. After Avery Reiff hit a two-out, second-inning single, Fausnaught did not let another Milton player square up a pitch again.
That second inning was the only time Milton threatened against Fausnaught. The Panthers had runners on first and second but Fausnaught ended the inning with a strikeout, using his slider to freeze the hitter, and dominated from there.
“After we scored a couple that third inning, I just felt locked in and guys were behind me. I felt like we had this game by the horns,” Fausnaught said. “Being able to go out there and mix it up with my two-seam and my slider was a big help. Helmrich and I were on the same page calling pitches and we pounded the strike zone.”
Milton (2-2) is a young team but is ahead of schedule after winning three games in each of the past two seasons. The Black Panthers kept battling, avoided the mercy rule and scored two sixth-inning runs. That fight is something first-year coach Cory Burkholder, who led a resurgence at St. John Neumann, likes a lot.
Ethan Rhodes epitomized that determined attitude when he launched a sixth-inning home run. Luke Goodwin hit a double a batter later and scored a wild pitch, but Robertson squashed the rally when he made a brilliant stop and rocket throw to rob Reiff of a two-out single.
Indigo Koch took over from there and struck out three in his varsity debut as Williamsport remained tied for first with Central Mountain in the HAC-I. Milton’s two losses are to those first-place teams, but Milton never went down easy in either game and is looking up as it moves forward.
“One of our philosophies is never give up,” Burkholder said. “Anyone can lose on any given day but to lay down and get beat is a whole different mindset and they didn’t let that happen.”
Williamsport 004 050 0–9 11 1
Milton 000 002 0–2 4 2
Caleb Fausnaught, Indigo Koch (6) and Caden Helmrich. Luke Goodwin, Brayden Gower (5), Logan Shrawder (7) and Aiden Keiser. W: Fausnaught. L: Goodwin.
Top Williamsport hitters: Cayden Robertson 3-5, HR, RBI, 2R; Deacon Brown 2-5, HR, 3 RBIs; Cole Shuler 2-5, R; Griffin Vollman 2-4, RBI, R; Helmrich 1-4; Quentin Mazzante 1-4, 2 RBIs, R. Top Milton hitters: Ethan Rhodes 1-4, HR, RBI; Goodwin 1-2, 2B, R; Quinn Keister 1-3, SB; Avery Reiff 1-3.
Records: Williamsport (3-0, 3-0 HAC-I), Milton (2-2, 2-2).