Although it was the season opener for both teams, the Pilot Grove Tigers baseball team avenged its loss in the championship in the district tournament last year by beating the New Franklin in eight innings Tuesday night at New Franklin by a score of 9-5.
The Tigers, 1-0 on the season, trailed New Franklin 3-0 after the first and 4-2 after three before rallying back with three runs in the top-half of the sixth to go up 5-4. Meanwhile, after New Franklin tied the game at 5-all with one run in the seventh, Pilot Grove came back and broke the game wide-open with four runs in the eighth for the victory.
Pilot Grove coach Clint Poulsen said what a way to start the season.
“We were down 4-2 going into the sixth inning and then brought nine batters to the plate and managed to score three runs, giving us a one-run lead,” Poulsen said. “New Franklin then tied it at five in the bottom of the seventh, but we would answer with four more runs in the top of the eighth on three big hits. Our pitchers then finished the game by retiring their No. 2-4 hitters in the bottom-half of the inning.
“This was not your typical opening game, though. I thought both teams played pretty well for their first time out on a very cold night which was tough for the pitchers and hitters. Our first-two pitchers Regan and Alex did a good job of keeping New Franklin at bat, especially since they have very little varsity experience being a freshman and a sophomore, respectively.
“Trenton came in to get us out of a big jam in the sixth after we had taken a one-run lead and let the bottom part of the lineup get to him for a run in the seventh to send us to extra innings. I knew it would be a tough order going up against their all-stater, Tyler White, but we came out and took advantage of some wildness on his part and some great execution on a squeeze play by Trevor to take the lead, and then Kendall hit a huge triple to right center to give us some extra cushion with their 2-3-4 hitters coming up in the bottom-half of the inning.”
Trenton Young picked up the win on the mound for Pilot Grove while Tyler White took the loss for New Franklin. Young pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief and struck out seven batters while giving up one run on one hit and three walks. White, meanwhile, pitched two innings in relief and allowed four runs on three hits and two walks while striking out four.
Pilot Grove also out-hit New Franklin 8-7, with Kendall Kraus going 2-for-5 with a single, triple and four RBIs. Trenton Young was 2-for-5 with a single, double and one RBIs while Trevor Day added two singles, Sean Lorenz with a double and two RBIs and Regan Meisenheimer with one single.
For New Franklin, Tyler Hull went 2-for-5 with two doubles and one RBI while Levi Bishop added one single, one double and one RBI, Tanner White with a RBI-double, Alex Holem with a two-RBI single and Jacob Woodbury with one single.
New Franklin coach Erich Gerding said his team looked great the first few innings but then squandered several opportunities, which gave Pilot Grove more and more momentum and confidence.
“Hats off to them, they were just tougher than us in all areas of the game,” Gerding said.