Jake Martin doesn't get much of a chance to truly admire JD Reichel's work on the basepaths, seeing as how the second baseman hits directly behind the speedster in the Lowcountry Heat batting order.
But he appreciates the center fielder's work nonethless.
"He's a great leadoff hitter," Martin said. "Two-hole hitters love it when they get on a lot like he does and can steal a base with no problem. The pitcher has to throw strikes instead of worrying about throwing curveballs in the dirt.
"So I see a lot of good pitches. He just opens up the game for me a lot."
That was the case Monday night, as Reichel's terrorizing work on the basepaths helped the Heat claim a critical 4-3 victory over Goose Creek at Hilton Head Island High. The Hilton Head Christian Academy product had just one hit but wreaked havoc on the basepaths in the victory, including the scoring the tying run on Martin's ground ball single past second base in the third inning and the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the seventh.
"He's a catalyst for us," coach Chris Seelbach said. "When JD's getting on base, it changes everything for us. Not too many guys in this league can stop him from stealing second base."
Reichel's work started early, as the leadoff man worked full counts in each of his first two at-bats before registering walks. Once he reached first, he tallied a pair of stolen bases before coming home on Martin's single, which came after Goose Creek's Tyler Rio began to play close to Reichel at the second base bag, allowing the infielder to sneak one through the right side of the infield.
"When he gets on base and is stealing bases it really helps me," Martin said. "It opens up big holes and I can hit weak ground balls through the right side."
Reichel capped his night with a single up the box to start the seventh before coming around to score on an errant pitch by Goose Creek reliever Colton Rolader. The run snapped what had been a 3-3 deadlock and sent Post 185 to its 10th win of the season.
The Heat picked up a game on Post 166 in the League One standings to set up a potential league-deciding rematch Thursday night at Goose Creek, where Ryan Ward will take the mound for the Heat.
"I really didn't think we could honestly beat this team," Reichel said. "But we came out here and fought."
It was Martin who earned the victory, as the right-hander came in from second base to fire 3 1/3 shutout innings while recording three strikeouts. He replaced starter Nic Levy, who allowed three runs on three hits with seven walks and six strikeouts.
Going to Martin in relief was a concern for Seelbach, as the coach was already thin up the middle with shortstop Kevin Hickey and reserve infielder John Sheehan unavailable. But the combination of Grant Youmans and Jake Kizer proved just as effective, as the duo helped turn a dazzling double play to end the seventh, highlighting what was a sound night defensively.
"Grant hasn't even played the infield and comes in and does really good on defense," Martin said. "They were doing as much as they could. They've had almost zero reps there. Today they came to the field on it and worked on it. They made plays when it counted."
But it was Reichel's speed that was the difference-maker, despite the fact that it was an aspect of the center fielder's game that wasn't truly utlized until recently. Reichel said baserunning started out as an issue before he finally began to grasp the art of steal attempts in recent months.
"(It) has actually been a struggle for me the past couple of years," he said. "I just really haven't been able to get the right jump. This past year I've just been working on doing that. I'm just trying to work on that."
It certainly wasn't an issue Monday night. Post 166 coach Jimmy Huskey can attest to that.
"He picked good pitches to run on," he said. "We have one of the better catchers back there that can throw kids out. He picked good pitches and made plays. We didn't."
Post 166 Goose Creek 010 020 000 - 3 4 2
Post 185 Lowcountry 003 000 10X - 4 7 2
WP: Jake Martin 3 1/3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K.
LP: Colton Rolader 2 1/3 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 K.
Top Hitters: Goose Creek - Zack Wimmer 1 for 5, RBI; Jordan Lacavera 1 for 2, 2 BB; Brandon Hall 0 for 2, 2 BB. Lowcountry - JD Reichel 1 for 2, 2 BB, 2 SB, 2 R; Jake Martin 2 for 4, RBI; Ryan Ward 2 for 3, 2B, BB.