In a game where St. Anthony committed a number of uncharacteristic mistakes on defense, none stung like a pair of errors in the bottom of the fifth inning. Clinging to a 3-2 advantage, St. Anthony gave away its lead off two late and inaccurate throws to first base. A normally sound team in the field, the miscues allowed South Central to go ahead 4-3 with two innings remaining. "A few too many errors is kind of an under-exaggeration," Bulldogs coach Kenny Miller said. "We have got to make some plays, we didn't many any plays. We're not a little league team, we've seen it before, we know how to play."The turn of events fired up their skipper and had the visiting crowd sniffing an upset, but the Bulldogs flipped the switch in the sixth off three base hits and opportunistic baserunning. A sacrifice fly from pinch hitter Eric Gurtner would plate one run, and a heads-up play from Alex Hoelscher on a foul pop pushed St. Anthony back in front. Now ahead 5-4, the Bulldogs stepped up their play in the field and starting pitcher Zach Gardewine was steady on the mound as St. Anthony held on for a 5-4 win over the Cougars."I will give the guys some credit for fighting through adversity," Miller said. "You got to give it to those kids that came up the next inning, especially after it blew up a little bit."Down one run with the momentum clearly favoring South Central, Eli Dasenbrock started the rally in the top of the sixth with a single. Hoelscher and Charlie Schultz followed suit, loading the bases against the Cougars' Daniel Diss with no outs. Gurtner, hitting for Gardewine, drove one deep to center field, allowing Dasenbrock to tag up for the tying run. "Gurtner came off the bench and got that big pinch sacrifice fly," Miller said. "That was huge."With the go-ahead run on third, Jacob Lorenz fouled one high in the air that South Central catcher Drake Ritter was just able to flag down, but no Cougar covered home plate. Hoelscher tagged up from third, beating Ritter to home plate to push St. Anthony back in front."The play at the plate, you could see it happening," Cougars coach Curt Jones said. "I just wish somebody would have peeled off, we didn't react very good."Diss rebounded by getting Neil Williams to groundout for the final out of the inning, but the damage was done.Gardewine retired his first two batters in the seventh before surrendering a single to Austin Schwarm. Ritter hit a chopper to St. Anthony shortstop Ben Hecht, who flipped it to second base to end the game and preserve a 5-4 win.Though he gave up eleven hits on the afternoon, Gardewine did bend, but didn't break. Miller's starter limited the damage each time the Cougars got a runner on the base, as South Central left nine runners stranded during the course of the game."Zach battled his butt off," Miller said. "He doesn't throw a lot of strikeouts, and then we can't field the ball behind him. He is the MVP of that game, just for holding us in it."The play of the game may have come in the first inning, when Hecht first got the Bulldogs on the board after some aggressive running on the bags. Following a double, Hecht stole third and then pushed his luck by taking off for home two pitches later, where we beat the tag and put St. Anthony on the board."He's such a good natural player," Miller said. "He sneaks off and sneaks off, and soon he's gone. Only so many kids in the area can pull that off."Hecht's play stole the show early, but it was Gardewine's steady pitching that allowed St. Anthony to come away victorious. Gardewine notched a win in his complete-game effort for St. Anthony, walking one batter while striking out one opponent as well.For South Central, the game was an impressive showing for a team that was playing in just its third game of the young season."It's kind of what I expected," Jones said. "We will get there, it's only our third time on a field. We were just really inconsistent, we didn't get any key hits."Diss picked up the loss for the Cougars, but looked solid in his seven innings of action. The southpaw struck out six batters and only walked three."He was really good," Jones said. "He pitched a week ago, otherwise he's been in the gym."St. Anthony ran its record to 7-1 on the year, while South Central fell to 1-2. Both teams are back in action on Friday when the Bulldogs host Robinson and the Cougars visit Carlyle.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org