BLANCHARD - Jim Gardner took one glance behind the opposing dugout, and saw Zach Rote warming up.
The Howard coach and Bald Eagle Area High School baseball manager knew what was coming.
Off-speed. Lots of movement. The ability to work both sides of the plate.
Blanchard second baseman Ryan Watkins jumps for a ball as Howard’s Scott?Zuback slides into the bag Sunday in Blanchard.
"I can go back to high school, and he pitched against us a few times. We never hurt him. We may have beat him, but he gave us fits," Gardner said. "The ball looks like a balloon coming in there, and you try to do too much."
Well, the Hawks did one thing Sunday. That is, dump the ball over the fence.
Howard used home runs from Bones Fisher, Dylan Womer and Luke Gardner in the first inning as the Centre County club chased Rote after just 2-3 of an inning en route to an 11-4 win over Blanchard at the Bee Hive in County League baseball.
The Hawks (8-4) put up an eight-spot in the first inning, and rode the arm of the youngster Womer, who threw a complete-game five-hitter with four strikeouts and two walks.
"He threw well," Bees manager Tyler Barth said of Womer. "Anytime you can get a pitcher to throw strikes and keep the walks down, you are going to be efficient. He kept the ball low, and gave them a good chance to win."
The eight-run, first-inning surge was just too much to overcome.
Rote got the first out, but that's when the Hawks just blew up.
Howard had five straight hits - including Fisher's three-run jack that landed on Route 150, followed by Womer's solo shot to left.
Three batters later, Luke Gardner followed with a two-run blast toward the mobile homes in left.
Nine batters in, and the Hawks were out and rolling to a 7-0 lead.
"It's always nice to jump up like that," coach Gardner said. "We hit the ball pretty hard. It was nice to see those three home runs fly over the fence. Zach can be an effective pitcher. He must have been leaving that fastball toward the middle of the plate, and usually, that's not him. We were fortunate to jump on him early."
The Bees (5-9) didn't go without a fight.
Out of Blanchard's five hits - three flew over the fences.
Josh Bechdel connected on a solo shot in the second, Matt McGhee ripped a two-run dinger to straight-away center, and Barth finished with a two-out, sixth-inning homer.
The lead, though, was too great to overcome.
"It's tough, but you have to hit the ball regardless, and that's the way we approached it," Barth said. "We just wanted to stick to the gameplan as much as possible and go from there. Basically, you want to chip away at it inning by inning.
"That was Zach's first start of the year, and we thought that maybe we would go to a little off-speed because they've been hitting the ball so well. They are just pretty strong No. 1 through No. 9."
One night after busting out for 15 hits in a 15-12 loss to Philipsburg, Howard finished with 13 hits yesterday afternoon- including a 4-for-5 night from catcher Evan Gettig. Womer added three hits, while Scott Zuback scored three times.
"We are happy. We are off to a good start," Jim Gardner said. "We have a nice mix of youngsters and veterans. We are blending well together, and it's been a great time. We are having a lot of fun."
Ryan Watkins and Chad Todd had the other two Blanchard hits. Liel Karstetter and Timmy Stover threw well in relief of Rote, allowing just three runs in 6 1-3 innings.
"We are in a little slump. We just need more consistency - both hitting and pitching," Barth said. "If we get those things going, and at the right time, we will be OK. We are still in it. It's a long season, and our goal is to make playoffs. There are 10 teams, and the top 8 make it. If you can get into the playoffs, you never know what can happen."
County League Baseball
HOWARD 11, BLANCHARD 4
H800 021 0 - 11 13 1
B010 201 0 - 4 5 1
H: Dylan Womer and Evan Gettig. B: Zach Rote, Liel Karstetter (1) and Chad Todd. WP - Womer. LP - Rote. HR: H, Bones Fisher, Dylan Womer, Luke Gardner. B, Matt McGhee, Josh Bechdel, Tyler Barth. 2B: H, Gettig, Travis Price, Dylan Womer, Kyle Womer. MH: H, Gettig 4, Dylan Womer 3, Clay Smith 2. Record: H 8-4, B 5-9.