St. Anthony’s Connor Roepke just wanted to do something – anything – to make up for the two errors he committed on back-to-back popups against Neoga batters in the top of the second inning of their National Trail Conference tournament game.
After a steal by freshman Beau Adams, pinch-running for Colton Fearday who punched a single to left field, the other freshman got his moment.
Roepke remained motionless as the first pitch soared past him. Strike. Again he remained motionless as the second pitch soared past him. Ball. The third pitch was one that dreams are made of, as he connected on a fastball up the middle for a single scoring Adams propelling the Bulldogs to a 11-10 victory over the Indians giving the Bulldogs a trip to Farina on Wednesday to face South Central Wednesday in the semifinals.
“[The errors] made me want to come back and do something big and make up for them,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t getting the best read about the skies. They were blue skies for sure. I had to do something and come back for it. I knew it was time and I could do that.”
Neoga got the scoring started in the first when Nate Lacy was hit by a Seth Hotze pitch. Lacy stole second. Adam Fearday singled to left field scoring Lacy giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.
St. Anthony put eight runs on the board started by a Logan Antrim triple to the center field wall. Kennan Walsh bunted with Indians pitcher Luke Romack throwing to first for the out, while Antrim scored evening the score. The Bulldogs would tack on 7-run cushion before the end of the inning.
Each team added two runs in the third, before Neoga would start to chip away. With the Bulldogs holding a 9-3 lead, the Indians would add three in the fourth and two in the sixth before making it interesting in the seventh.
Lacy singled to center off of Antrim who came in to pitch. Fearday hit a line drive to right field giving Neoga runners on first and second with no one out. Bryar Hennesay doubled down the left line scoring Lacy and Fearday tieing the game at 10. Hennesay advanced to third on the throw to the plate. Antrim walked Isaac Walk with Hennesay still at third.
Antrim got Romack to hit a short fly to shortshop Eli Moore to end the inning.
Bulldog’s Colton Fearday singled on a line drive to centerfield as St. Anthony head coach Tony Kreke subbed in Beau Adams as a courtesy runner. Then the magic happened.
Roepke said he was expecting a fastball because he hadn’t seen Indians pitcher Brady Reynolds throw any off-speed pitches to him.
“I was waiting and I knew I had to do something there. If I just got on base, I knew that Logan (Antrim) had a good opportunity of driving in me or Beau,” Roepke said. “It was big for Beau to steal second or he’d be stuck on third. I felt a fastball would be big so I decided to go with it.”
Kreke said he was happy for the ‘freshmen connection” stepping up to help the team win.
“I couldn’t be happier. We had a little freshman connection going on there. He was able to steal that bag. We had to find a way to get him to second base,” Kreke said. “Connor Roepke has been, the last half of the season, one of our hotter hitters. I couldn’t be happier for him to see the hard work he puts in to get the job done.”
Antrim gets the win on one inning pitched with two runs and three hits with two strikeouts. He went 4-for-4 with two rbi and two runs. Walsh went 2-for-3 with 2 rbi and a run, and Fearday went 3-for-4 with a run scored.
For the Indians, Brady Reynolds takes the loss on 1 2/3 innings pitched with one run and three hits and one strikeout. Fearday went 3-for-5 with an rbi and two runs scored while Luke Romack went two-for-three with a walk and a run scored.
“We struggled at the beginning of the ballgame. We are what we are. Sometimes when you get down by eight it’s tough to come back. I knew we wouldn’t pack it up. I knew we had plenty of arms. We did what we wanted to do in tieing, but it would’ve been nice to get one more,” Indians head coach Kirk Hacker said.
As Adams scored, the Bulldogs bench raced past him and sought out Roepke and surrounded him smacking his helmet.
“That was something,” Roepke said. “It was very fun you could say; especially when upperclassmen come after you.”