By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Erik Johnson needed a couple innings to settle into his rhythm. Once he found a groove, the the McQuaid starter was close to untouchable.
Johnson tossed six and two-thirds as the McQuaid Knights defeated the Livonia Bulldogs, 5-2 in home opener Tuesday afternoon.
The left-hander struck out six, walked two and retired 12 of 14 batters from the end of the second through the sixth.
“He does a good job varying speeds and attacking the strike zone,” said first-year McQuaid coach Tony Fuller. “That’s when he’s at his best. He did a good job keeping his composure and throwing strikes which is his best attribute.”
Johnson worked out of a jam in the first inning. With runners on second and third, he set down the side on a pair of punch outs. One inning later, a miscommunication led to a dropped ball in the outfield. A stolen base and passed ball later, Ron Loomis got Livonia on the scoreboard with a sacrifice fly to bring home Morgan Brown.
The sophomore hurler did not allow another base hit until the seventh inning.
“Those first two innings were a little bit rough,” Johnson said. “After that it was solid. Just trying to not give up any runs. Keep our team in the best position to win that game.
“The curveball was working well at the beginning. Towards the end it started to fall off so then I just worked fastball from then on.”
Morrie Silver gave McQuaid a 2-1 edge in the second when he plated Tyler Griggs with a one-out double to right.
One inning later, McQuaid rallied with two outs, and Griggs delivered the big blow with a two-out shot over the centerfielder’s head scoring two.
“I was just going up there trying to get it through the infield,” Griggs said. “Just trying to hit it hard.”
Danny Maxwell and Billy Kehrig set the table with back-to-back two out singles before Griggs turned on an inside fastball.
“That was a big time hit for him,” Fuller said. “Being a freshman is such a big deal at this level. He’s a 14-year old kid. That’s a big time hit at the varsity level. He’s starting to settle in at his position and swinging the bat well. He had three hits the other day and comes back with a good performance today.”
Kehrig made it a 5-1 game in the fifth with a single to left bringing home Maxwell from third.
Livonia took advantage of two McQuaid errors and threatened in the seventh. Tyler Cyrus came out of the bullpen with the bases loaded and struck out the only batter he faced.
Kehrig finished the game with two RBI.
Johnson walked two and finished with nine fly ball outs. He set down five batters on ground balls.
The home-opening victory ushered in a new era of McQuaid baseball. One year after winning the Class AA Section V title with 15 seniors, the Knights boast youth in 2016.
“We’re a different team than last year,” Fuller noted. “We lost 15 seniors, so for these guys they’re trying to make a name for themselves. We got a lot of inexperienced kids, but they’re buying in and they’re growing up pretty quickly. It’s good to see them to do that. They have a lot to live up to being sectional champs, but this is a new crop of kids, and they’re doing a good job living up to that.
McQuaid improved to 5-3 with the win. Livonia dropped to 2-1.
McQuaid plays Webster-Schroeder, Thursday at Frontier Field. A 4:30 p.m. first pitch is scheduled.