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Tigers can’t overcome early inning deficit

PRINCETON — The visiting Mendota Trojans used a productive first inning to take control of the game and ultimately hold off the Princeton Tigers, 5-2, Tuesday afternoon in non-conference boys’ varsity baseball action.

“We’ve been able to take some early leads on a lot of teams, and we’re still trying to learn how to win, and win big,” said Mendota coach Aaron Sester. “Princeton’s not a bad club. They’ve got a pretty good pitching core here, and they mix up speeds and kept us off balance. But it’s one of those things where we got them early, and we’ve got to keep on rolling.

“Bases loaded, nobody out and we already had (two) runs in, we only scored one more that inning. That’s something we’ve got to teach and get better at. We needed to put up a six or seven spot in that first inning and keep it coming and put the pressure on. But we’ll get there.”

The first five Mendota batters of the game reached base on a bunt single, another infield single, a pair of walks and a hit-batsman. That made it a 2-0 Trojans lead before a single out had been recorded. A fielder’s choice groundout to short scored a third run and Mendota led 3-0, despite leaving two more runners in scoring position.

“It hurt us big time when they went up like that,” said Princeton coach Tim Taylor. “We struggled a little bit early on with Nick (Rolando) needing to work a little bit to get his location. Once he found it, he was fine. (He was) a little sore, so we pulled him and made the switch (to Foster). And Southern did a nice job of finishing the game (pitching).”

Mendota starting pitcher Cody Zinke allowed just one base hit and a walk in the first two innings, throwing only a total 16 total pitches along the way.

But Zinke ran into trouble in the bottom of the third. Despite getting ahead 0-2 on the first four Princeton hitters, three of the four reached base on two walks and a hit-batsman.

Princeton starting pitcher Nick Rolando helped himself by coming through with a solid, two-run single down the left field line to suddenly pull the Tigers to within 3-2 of Mendota. But the Tigers eventually stranded the potential game-tying runner at third base following an infield groundout and a flyout to right field.

Mendota’s D.J. Duffy singled to lead off the fourth, moved to second base on a Jake Guerrero groundout, then scored on yet another infield groundout by Jarred Johnson to give the Trojans a 4-2 lead.

Tyler Cocanour, who reached base on an error, came around to score on a Zinke infield single to complete the scoring, 5-2, in the top of the fifth frame.

Princeton left a base runner on second base in both the fourth and sixth innings. Mendota (6-5) was also bailed out by a bunt pop-up double play that effectively ended any Tigers rally in the bottom of the game’s seventh inning.

Zinke went the distance on the mound for Mendota, improving to 2-1. Zinke allowed two earned runs on just three hits, striking out four and walking four.

“Zinke threw a lot of strikes, couple of 0-2 walks, a hit batter on 0-2, which led to their runs, but other than that, he commanded the zone,” Sester said. “I think he had good stuff today.

“Happy with the win. You’re always happy with the win. Still got to do the little things, work on some little things, get a little better, because, come regional time, an error or a walk or a hit batter here or there will lose you the game.”

Rolando took the pitching loss for Princeton (2-11), allowing three earned runs on three hits, walking two and striking out one. Foster replaced Rolando on the hill, giving up a single earned run on two hits over the game’s final four innings.

Besides Rolando’s two-run single, Princeton also got a second inning single by J.J. Vacarro and a fourth inning, two-out, infield single by Sam Schlesinger.

“After a tough loss (Monday) night, (we) came back and played good baseball tonight,” said Taylor. “Defensively, we made a couple errors out there, but they kept their heads in the game the whole time.

“Southern Foster did a nice job of pitching tonight. I was really happy with him. Defensively, we could have made some better moves. Offensively, we still need to work on our bats. All in all, pretty even game, pretty even teams. So we’ve got some work to do before regionals, because we’ll see them in regionals as well.”

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