The field was slick. The ball was slick. But Brady Renner? He was really slick.
While fielders and batters battled the steady rain that made conditions nearly unplayable at the Merrick Avenue field Saturday, Renner, the righty sidearmer from St. Dominic, perfected his own version of the rain dance -- a tango of tailing, dropping sliders, changeups and fastballs that stymied Kellenberg, 2-0, in the CHSAA opener.
"The breaking ball, surprisingly, was working better than I thought with the rain," said Renner, who struck out 13 in a two-hitter. "I think it helped me because it might've messed the batters up a little with the spin."
Oh, and messed up they were. Renner faced the minimum from the second through sixth, throwing 75 pitches and allowing two runners to reach scoring position -- one on defensive indifference. Not bad considering Kellenberg's Jesse Clara led off with a double.
"That slider has really developed," coach Chris Tranchina said. "It's baffling guys and it shows the work he's been putting in."
The Bayhawks got on the board in the fourth inning -- one where the rain really showed its mettle. Jack McCarty lead off with a triple that got stuck in the wet grass in leftfield, and the next two batters, Chris Johnson and Justin Cancel, reached on a walk and an infield error. Johnson later came around on Vinny Prisco's bases loaded walk and Cancel scored on an outfield error.
"We wanted to work counts and get on base," Prisco said. "You see a bad infield, a bad outfield, kids slipping, balls dropping, you obviously want to just get the ball in play."
Despite threatening again in the sixth, the Bayhawks weren't able to get much else. It didn't matter, though, as Renner actually seemed stronger as the innings went on -- striking out the side in the sixth and two more in the seventh.
This, from someone who gave up pitching in the eighth grade, when he found the over-the-top arm slot uncomfortable and couldn't quite get sidearm. He took it back up as a sophomore, when he went to JV, he said. Now a George Washington University-bound senior, Renner was called up later that year, sidearm clicking.
"Today, they were swinging right over my slider," he said. With the sidearm, "the general vision of the batter is a little cut off . . . It comes out of the side and it can tail and it screws up their swings."