By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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If his pitching wasn't great, it was certainly effective as Wilder Senior made quick work of their Wilder Junior counterparts in a 5-1 win in the nightcap of the first day of the 16th annual Dick Brown Firecracker Classic on Thursday night.
“I think I did all right,” Johnston said after the game.
“It wasn't one of my best outings, I had the tendency tonight to work deep in the count and throw more pitches than I wanted to.”
Johnston was helped by some solid fielding by his teammates.
“I had a lot of good defense behind me, they always have my back,” Johnston said.
Wilder Senior manager Mike Politika thought his team played well.
“We defended well,” Politika said. “We took advantage of a few opportunities early, and that was key to get runs on the board first and put the pressure on them from the start.”
After Johnston recorded two strikeouts in the top of the first inning, his teammates staked him to an early lead in the home half.
Wilder Senior leadoff batter Brady Konopaski was plunked by Junior starter Nigel Christian to open the frame.
Brett Wright then reached base on a fielding error, and Johnston moved the pair to second and third, respectively, on a sacrifice bunt.
Cleanup batter Larsson Chapman then poked a sacrifice fly to shallow right field to plate Konopaski.
Eathen Boyer then grounded to third base, but another fielding miscue brought Wright home for a 2-0 Wilder Senior lead.
Johnston tallied a 1-2-3 second inning, with two more strikeouts in the second inning.
“It always puts me in a better mood, it gets me more comfortable,” Johnston said.
Wilder Senior third baseman Travis Paynter opened the bottom of the second with a first-pitch home run, a towering solo blast to left that easily cleared the tall fence at Civic Field.
“I thought I popped it up when I first hit it,” Paynter said.
“It was a nice, inside pitch but I really thought I got underneath it at first.”
It was the first Civic Field home run for Paynter, a junior in the fall at Port Angeles High School, and the first home run of the Wilder Senior (16-3) season.
“That was a wonderful shot,” Politika said.
Johnston and Christian both cruised through the third inning, with each pitcher striking out one batter.
In total, Christian allowed just four hits and a hit batter, while walking none and striking out seven.
With one down in the top of the fourth, Christian belted a double just in front of the 355-feet sign in right field to break up Johnston's no-hit bid.
Wilder Junior however, couldn't get on the board as Christian ended up stranded at third base.
Chapman lined a well-struck single to right to open the bottom of the fourth for Wilder Senior.
Boyer legged out an infield single on a tapper to short, and Tanner Gouchnour moved the pair to second and third base on a sacrifice bunt.
Paynter then brought Chapman home on an RBI ground out to third base to make it 4-0 Wilder Senior.
Wilder Junior plated their lone run in the top of the sixth inning.
Ian Dennis looped a long double to right field and was brought home on a sacrifice fly by Alex Morris.
Wilder Senior scored its final run when Chapman reached second base on a throwing error after grounding to short.
He later scored his second run of the game on another Wilder Junior throwing error to make it 5-1 entering the top of the seventh.
Johnston showed no signs of wearing down, striking out two, including the final batter to close the contest.
“He really battled hard tonight,” Politika said.
Wilder Junior, which fell to Sandberg Olympia 6-5 in the tournament's first game Thursday, will face Oak Harbor today (Friday) at 4 p.m.
It's a rematch of last Sunday's Anacortes Wood Bat Invitational, won 1-0 by Oak Harbor.
Wilder Senior will face Sandberg Olympia, managed by former Port Angeles prep standout Eric Lane, in tonight's finale at 7 p.m.
Sports Writer Mike Carman can be reached at 360-417-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.