MONROE >> In the midst of a seven-game, nine-day stretch, Masuk coach Ralph Franco was forced to think out-of-the-box when it came to putting together a pitching plan.
And, boy, did he hit the jackpot with Luke Shaffer on Tuesday when the Panthers hosted Staples at John Giampaolo Field.
Shaffer, a senior, spoke up earlier in the week, telling his coach that he could pitch a little if need-be. What he did to the Wreckers’ batting order may have earned him a rotation spot going forward.
Shaffer struck out 12 in a complete game shutout as Masuk beat Staples 10-0 to improve to 3-0 on the season. Staples is now 1-2.
The last time Shaffer pitched in a game was his sophomore season, nearly two years ago, on the JV squad. So making his first career varsity start against a team with a couple D-I college recruits, Franco got more than he could have asked for.
“We talked about him coming out of the bullpen at the start of the season,” Franco said. “He might turn himself into a starter after today’s game.”
Shaffer struck out lead-off hitter Chris Drbal three times and, although he did not get University of North Carolina commit Ben Casparius or Duke commit Chad Knight to strike out, he did limit them to 2-for-5 with a walk. He never allowed them to get past second base.
“It’s a Tuesday in between three league games,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “So you know they’re going to try something and we’re going to try some stuff with our kids. I knew it was going to be a funky game. I thought it would be a little more high-scoring, but the other kid threw the ball real well.”
The one hint of trouble Shaffer faced came in the top of the second when he hit Michael Fanning with a pitch to start the inning and then walked Matt Stone with the game still scoreless. But that threat was quelled when he struck out the next three batters he faced, two looking to get out of the inning.
“I’ve got to thank my catcher [Enzo Merlonghi],” Shaffer said. “He calls all my pitches. Mixing in the curveball once in a while and change-up here and there. Other than that it was just the fastball.”
Five of Shaffer’s 12 strikeouts came looking.
The Masuk bats did more than enough work off of Staples starter Jack Portman.
After going hitless through the first two innings, Kevin Papscoe led off the third with a single and scored on Joshua Wittenberger’s double to right field. But that was just the beginning.
“We lost a lot of big sticks,” Franco said. “And the young guys are stepping up and doing their job.”
The Panthers sent eight batters to the plate in the fourth when they picked up three runs, one earned, as Staples made two of its six errors.
Masuk scored three more in the fifth and three more in the sixth on three combined hits in those two innings.
Shaffer closed out the game with two strikeouts in the seventh and finished the complete game on 103 pitches.
Masuk 10, Staples 0
Staples: 000 000 0 — 0 5 6
Masuk: 001 333 x — 10 9 0
(at John Giampaolo Field, Masuk High School)
Batteries: S — Jack Portman (L), Sam Robin (4) and Matt Stone; M — Luke Shaffer (W) and Enzo Merlonghi.
2B: M — Wittenberger, Jack Rose.
RBI: M — Papscoe, Wittenberger, Lorusso, Rose.
WP: S — Robin.
PB: S — Robin.
Team records: Staples 1-2; Masuk 3-0.