As the No. 1 seed in the CCAA Baseball Tournament over the weekend in Prairie Home, the Pilot Grove Tigers baseball team made no bones as to how far the remaining four teams have to go to reach their level of play.
While beating Jamestown 16-4 in the semifinal round on Thursday, the Tigers came back with an even more impressive showing in the championship game against No. 3 Prairie Home with a 12-2 victory in six innings.
Needless to say, Pilot Grove coach Clint Poulsen said the game against Prairie Home was sloppy to say the least with the Panthers committing nine errors and the Tigers with four.
"The old saying is that "A win is a win", but this was a sloppy game," Poulsen said. "I think we thought that we could just show up and go through the motions and win this game early, but Prairie Home came out fired up and beat us the first couple of innings. We didn't hit the ball very well, but put it in play and that was enough to win the game. We did run the bases very well and that was a positive and we executed a couple of bunts that helped put the pressure on their defense. Derek pitched a good game for us on the positive end of things and we did have a couple of good defensive plays."
The Tigers definitely had their hands full against Prairie Home while trailing 2-1 after 1 1/2. However after pushing across three runs in the bottom-half of the second to go up 4-2, Pilot Grove came back and added two again in the third, four in the fourth and one in each of the fifth and sixth innings of play for the victory.
Derek Zeller picked up the win on the mound for Pilot Grove while Klay Holliday took the loss for Prairie Home.
In six innings pitched, Zeller struck out three batters and gave up just two runs on three hits and four walks. Holliday, meanwhile, pitched all six innings for the Panthers and yielded 12 runs on five hits and three walks while striking out two.
Trenton Young went 1-for-4 in the game for Pilot Grove with a single and two RBIs. Kendall Kraus had a single and one RBI while Trevor Day, Regan Meisenheimer and Isaac Lorenz added one single each.
For Prairie Home, who dropped to 3-5 on the season, Sam Distler doubled while Kody Utterback and Klay Holliday each singled.
Prairie Home coach Jesse Oswald said he didn't feel like his team brought the same intensity to this game as they did in the first. "We started off pretty strong but then we made a couple of mistakes in the field and we let that carry over into the next play," Oswald said. "There were a couple of innings where Klay probably should have been out of the inning a few batters sooner than he was, but our defense didn't bring it today to back him up. He did a great job of throwing strikes, we just gave them extra outs and against a good team like Pilot Grove you can't do that."
Of course the Panthers had a little better luck in the semifinal round against Bunceton while prevailing 5-2.
Although the Dragons scored first with one in the bottom-half of the first, it was pretty much all Prairie Home the rest of the way with one run in each of the fourth and fifth innings of play and three again in the sixth for the victory.
Oswald said his team hit the ball really well during this game, but in the early parts of the game it was right at them. "I felt that we stayed patient at the plate and didn't get frustrated," Oswald said. "Defensively, we started off behind their first-two batters and they made us pay early, but fortunately Trever Huth responded well and our defense backed him up when we needed them to. I felt like this was a very good game to start off the day with, especially after not playing in over a week."
Trever Huth picked up the win on the mound for Prairie Home while Kyle Held took the loss for Bunceton. In seven innings, Huth struck out 18 batters and gave up two runs on five hits. Held, meanwhile, pitched all seven innings for Bunceton and issued five runs on five hits and one walk while striking out eight.
Klay Holliday went 2-for-3 in the game for Prairie Home with a single and a double. Trever Huth also doubled while Rayce Kendrick and Nathan Small each singled.
For Bunceton, Kyle Held tripled while Will Twenter doubled. Will Amstrong and D. Davis also singled in the game.
In the third-place game, Bunceton defeated Jamestown by a score of 4-3.
Jamestown opened the game with a 2-1 lead after the first. However after the Dragons rallied back with two in the bottom-half of the third to go up 3-2, the Eagles came back and added one in the top-half of the fifth to tie the game at 3-all. Meanwhile, in the bottom-half of the fifth, Bunceton sent one run across to garner the victory.
Bunceton coach Yancy Cody said he is extremely proud of each and every one of the boys.
"We had to have some young guys step up a play positions that were brand new to them," Cody said. "Also my older boys did one heck of a job of keeping my younger boys heads. Our first game was against Prairie Home, Kyle Held pitched one heck of a game and so did Trever Huth. We just could not get our sticks to work against him. It was a tough lost but we had no choice but to bounce back and get ready for Jamestown the next game. Kyler Tucker struggled the first-two innings on the mound then settled into his groove and pitch a very good game. Our bats got a little more hot this game with even some of my younger players getting on base with some nice base hits."
Kyler Tucker was the winning pitcher in the game for Bunceton while Colton Devore took the loss for Jamestown. In seven innings, Tucker struck out 16 batters and gave up just three runs on eight hits and four walks. Devore, meanwhile, pitched all seven innings for the Eagles and surrendered four runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out nine.
Kyle Held had a single and a double to lead all hitters for Bunceton. Tucker tripled in the game while Will Twenter, Jacob Clevenger, Ashton Campbell, Will Armstrong and D. Amiton each singled.
For Jamestown, Thompson and Duncan each had two hits.