By Steve Joos
One strike away.
That was how close the Mount Vernon baseball team was to a Class 3A Sectional championship early last week at Braun Stadium in Evansville.
One strike away, but then the defense let the Wildcats down.
There were baseruning errors, base runners left in scoring position and untimely outs in the Wildcats’ 8-7 loss to Memorial in the title contest, but those things weren’t the major difference in the team’s Memorial Day loss, according to Coach Paul Quinzer.
“The bottom line is we didn’t field the ball when we needed to field the ball,” Quinzer said. “We gave them too many opportunities and they took advantage of them. They got eight runs on five hits. How do you do that? We walk and we walk and then we boot the ball. And that’s what we did.”
Jeremy King’s bad hop single, which went over the head of a leaping Jevin Redman at second base and was bobbled by two outfielders, scored the tying and winning runs as the Tigers pulled out the Sectional despite a 5-22 won-loss record which included 10 forfeits for using an ineligible player. Ross Canada pitched six strong innings of relief after replacing Troy Paris in the top of the fourth inning, but the defense let him down.
Luke Bockleman walked to open the bottom of the seventh, a signal that Canada might have been tiring, but Wade McNabb forced pinch runner Ethan Sauls at second for the first out of the inning.
Ryan Krack was sent in to pinch run for McNabb and he might have stayed at first base, but…Adam Eberhard singled, sending Krack to third and Paris mishandled Nick Abbott’s grounder to short, allowing Krack to score. Charlie Grief fanned for the second out, but only after Clay Ford slipped and missed a pop up in foul territory.
Then with two strikes on King, Canada missed on what Quinzer thought should have been strike three, before the junior infielder smacked a liner which went over Redman and into center field, where it was mishandled long enough for Abbott and Eberhard to score.
“We’ve had one strike before,” Quinzer said of the next to last pitch. “I thought he was out, but I guess I wasn’t looking from the right angle.”
Then again, there was another misplay in the outfield.
Keeping Canada in the game was a tough call, the coach added, pointing out the error and dropped foul ball as potential outs which the team didn’t make behind the junior hurler.
“A single that we kicked and we pushed it along,” Quinzer said of King’s hit. “They took another base and that was the game.”
The Cats had battled back from an early 5-1 deficit as Canada kept the Tigers at bay long enough for Mount Vernon to take the lead and then held them off.
Memorial plated five runs in the bottom of the second to wipe out a 1-0 Wildcat lead, but the Cats came right back in the top of the third, as Redman beat out an infield single, Paris singled and Ford doubled, all after VanZant was thrown out trying to stretch a single.
Aaron Roberts drew an intentional walk, but then Drake McNamara lined a single to right, scoring Paris and Ford.
In the top of the fifth, Roberts was hit by a pitch, McNamara singled and Canada made it all the way to third when Memorial pitcher Justin Holtz threw the ball away and then catcher Sam Griggs mishandled it twice, allowing Roberts and McNamara to score the go-ahead runs. A fly ball off the bat of Craig Beeson brought in Canada with an insurance run which lasted until the bottom of the seventh and the last strike of the game.
The season is measured all too often in how a team does in the postseason—and Mount Vernon is 24-7, but going home.
The Cats reached the championship game by routing Gibson Southern 11-4 in the semifinals early on Memorial Day.
“We swung the bats early,” Quinzer said of his team’s success against Titans’ ace Lance Lantrip. “He was keeping the ball down, but every once in a while the ball got up a bit. We stung him for a few runs. Aaron Roberts had a nice game. They left the ball up to Aaron and he can deposit it a couple of places.”
Roberts belted his sixth home run of the season as part of a three-run third inning which broke a 2-2 tie and put the Cats in command.
Paris doubled to open the top of the third and then scored the go-ahead run on a single by Ford and a wild pitch. Then Roberts ripped a pitch over the left field fence at Braun Stadium for a home run, giving the Wildcats a 5-2 lead.
Roberts had the big blow when Mount Vernon tacked on another four tallies in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs in the thread, Redman walked, Paris was hit by a pitch and Paris singled, scoring Redman. Robert then boomed a triple to left, scoring two runs, and he scored on a single by McNamara. Trevor Veeck fanned to end the inning, but not before Mount Vernon’s 5-2 spread had been stretched to 9-2.
Roberts also hits for a decent average, Quinzer said, noting that the senior hits around .370 for the season.
Dausmann was roughed up at the outset, as the Titans scored two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the second inning, but he settled down and pitched well for four innings before Veeck and Canada took over.
Paris had two hits and drew a walk for the Cats, scoring two runs.
VanZant singled, took second on a ground out and came around on a single by Paris as the Cats plated two runs in the top of the first inning. The Wildcat shortstop was caught stealing, but Veeck doubled and came around on a walk to Roberts, a wild pitch and an infield single by McNamara.