MANCHESTER — The first four innings were a breeze for Glen Rock pitcher Josh Houser on Monday evening.
The next three innings? Not so carefree.
After needing just 49 pitches to complete four scoreless innings, Houser required 64 pitches to finish the last three innings.
The bottom line, though, was that the right-hander earned a complete-game victory as the 'Rock' bested Manchester, 6-3, to improve its Central League-best record to 19-3.
"The first four innings, I got a first-pitch strike," Houser said."It's a lot easier when you do that. Starting in the fifth inning, I was not getting ahead. I think there was a little bit of fatigue there (in the final three innings)."
Houser mixed his fastball with a change-up (to left-handed hitters) and a slider (to right-handed hitters). He benefited from support in the field and at the plate. Glen Rock turned two double plays and collected 10 hits. The visitors scored two runs in the first inning, three runs in the third inning and one in the fourth inning to stake their pitcher to a 6-0 lead.
"Pitching with a lead is awesome," said Houser, who struck out five and walked three.
Dan Rhodes led Glen Rock by going 3-for-3 and scoring two runs. Dan Rogers added two hits and two RBIs and Troy Miller supplied two hits. Trey McWilliams accounted for two of Manchester's six hits. Rhodes is rounding back into form after being forced to sit out three weeks with an injury.
"I felt good at the plate, and I'm getting better each game," he said.
Rhodes, in his 16th season, is a veteran on a young team. Most of the starters are in their 20s.
"Rick (Goebeler) and I are the old guys," Rhodes said. "The talent is very high on this team and it will be fun to come back and watch these guys play."
Rhodes doesn't have any time table as to when he'll retire. As long as he feels comfortable, he'll keep playing. Playing for a first-place team certainly adds to the enjoyment.
Manchester doesn't quit: Glen Rock appeared like it would breeze to its 19th victory when it scored the first half-dozen runs of Monday's game. However, Manchester, to its credit, did not quit. The Indians scored two runs in the fifth and another run in the seventh. Manchester had the tying run at the plate in the seventh when Houser ended the game with a strikeout.
Glen Rock manager Marty Heyne, who visited Houser on the mound in the seventh, had the hook out, but he didn't have to use it.
"He (Heyne) told me that the final batter I faced (to end the game) was my last one," Houser said.
Houser and the other members of the pitching staff have been a huge strength for the Rock this season. Matt Gonzalez, a former star at Glen Rock, returned to the rotation this year after playing for Jefferson. Houser, limited to one or two starts last year because of a commitment to American Legion ball, has been a mainstay this year. And Nick Cicio, who pitched in Class A ball and in the Frontier League, joined the team for 2015.
"And Brad (McCullough) is undefeated, and we have (Scott) Merkel)," Heyne said. "Our defense has been pretty good all year, and we fell into some pitching this year."
Heyne was pleased the way his team put up runs early in Monday's game.
"We came out hitting the ball. I knew they (Manchester) were going with a right-hander, so I put my lefties (Miller, Rhodes, Justin Anderson and Rogers) right at the top of the order," he said.
The game was the first of six Glen Rock will play between Monday and next Sunday.
OTHER CENTRAL LEAGUE GAME
Mount Wolf 9, Pleasureville 1: At Mount Wolf, starting pitcher Kyle Cook led the home team by throwing six innings, striking out seven, walking one and giving up two hits. Also for the Wolves, Dan Dierdorff went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, Patrick Moriarty went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, John Mehring went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, Mark Burnside went 2-for-4 with one run scored, Devin Blymire went 2-for-3 with one RBI, Steve Pokopec went 1-for-2 with one run scored and two RBIs and relief pitcher Joe Nestor struck out the side in the top of the seventh. For Pleasureville, Scott Steffy doubled. Mount Wolf moved to 14-6-2.
— Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.