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Storm rally for split with Trojans

MANLIUS – The Bureau Valley Storm rallied late – and big time – for a 5-4 win over the Mendota Trojans in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday. Mendota took the second game 7-1.

Thus, these two eventual fellow regional participants split two games before heading to the postseason together in a couple weeks at Oregon High School.

“The first game was a Senior Day for us,” BV coach Jon Matlick said. “And it was nice for us in the second game to get the kids that normally don’t get a lot of playing time, a nice opportunity for them to get in and have a chance to show what they have.

“I thought it was just a good day of baseball, two good days of baseball for us. We are 3-1 over two days. We (played) Morrison and Erie-Prophetstown over at Clinton, Iowa, (Friday), and we won both of those.”

Trailing 3-0 for most of the game, the Storm plated five unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth frame to grab a sudden, and highly effective, 5-3 lead.

“We didn’t play the best in the first couple of innings,” BV coach John Matlick said. “We were scrambling around, kind of just trying to hold on and make sure we kept ourselves in the game. And we gave ourselves enough of a chance in that sixth inning to push through.

“The boys were really resilient. They had a good attitude throughout the game. And good things were coming to us. We capitalized (on Mendota’s errors), did the things we needed to do to produce our runs.”

In that decisive sixth frame, McKinley Kruger singled to center with one out. Kyle Rokey grounded out to second, moving Kruger to second base with two outs.

Keaton Wagenkneckt singled to left, then Mendota’s defense committed three straight errors on ground balls, any one of which could have ended the bottom of the sixth with Mendota still in front. Instead, Bryce Hansen, Andrew Harshman and Josh Renner all reached base, and the inning continued.

Trevin Kennedy got hit by a 2-1 pitch to force in the tying run. Next up, Logan Marquez recorded the game-winning RBI with a solid, two-run single to left, and just like that, BV led the Trojans, 5-3.

Trae Blumhorst, who went 3-3 with a walk, homered to right field in the top of the seventh for Mendota, but his solo shot wasn’t enough to overcome BV’s big sixth-inning rally.

“Trae’s coming into his own. I think he was 4-5 with a home run and some balls hit off the fence (on the day). He’s heating up, which is great, because it’s good to have at least one hitter that’s locked in, and you can just pencil him in to the three or four spot, and he’ll do just fine for you.”

Mendota’s three-run third inning – fueled by Aaron Olsen’s two-run single to center – put the Trojans in control for much of the contest.

“Real tough (loss). Regional opponent, and I told the guys coming in that we’ve got to get two. There’s no ands, ifs, or buts about it,” said Mendota coach Aaron Sester, whose team had to settle for a split. “We’ve got to start playing well defensively. We did that for six innings.

“Frustrating loss. Game 2, it was good to respond and get a W.”

Kruger relieved Kennedy on the hill and earned the victory in relief, going the final three innings, allowing one earned run, via Blumhorst’s late homer, on three hits, walking none and fanning six Trojans.

Mendota struck for three runs in the first inning of Game 2. Rick Shankles provided a clutch, two-out, two-run single to right field to give the visitors another early, 3-0 lead.

The Trojans added one run in the fourth on a Garet Zinke bases-loaded walk. Mendota (5-11) posted another two runs in the fifth, and added a seventh run on Riley Schuhler’s ringing double to left field with two outs in the top of the sixth inning.

The Storm pushed across an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth, when Mead, who had walked to start the frame, came around to score when Hansen reached base on an infield error.

All told, BV recorded four hits and coaxed five walks and two Trojans errors, but left 10 runners on base in Game 2, six of them in scoring position.

Mendota starter Aaron Olsen went six innings, yielding one unearned run on four hits. The junior hurler walked five and struck out 10 Storm hitters.

“It was his second outing of the year,” said Sester. “He’s got the stuff to be real dominant. He’s just got to learn his craft a little more and learn how to become a better pitcher. But he pitched real well today.”

Ryan Young took the complete game loss for the Storm (6-8), surrendering seven runs (four earned) on nine hits, walking three, striking out seven, and hitting two Mendota batters.

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