MANLIUS – The Bureau Valley Storm rallied late once this season to beat the Mendota Trojans. It occurred in the first game of an April 27 double-header on the very same baseball field.
And so the hosts in this Oregon Regional quarterfinal game showed inklings of possibly doing the same thing again, on Monday afternoon.
But the sixth-seeded Trojans (7-19) ultimately held on, behind the 1-2 pitching punch of senior starter Trae Blumhorst’s 4 1/3 innings and freshman reliever Garet Zinke’s 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, to down fifth-ranked Bureau Valley, 5-3.
“I thought we came out a little flat today,” said BV coach John Matlick. “We’ve kind of done that on Mondays this year. It must be the day off on Sunday that has gotten to us. We didn’t come out throwing strikes, and really, Mendota had (only) one hit that first inning. And that (bad result) breaks your back.”
Mendota ultimately rode a four-run first inning to the postseason victory.
“Big win. It’s our first regional win in three years,” said Mendota coach Aaron Sester. “So it’s a big win for the kids, going in the right direction. They learned how to win a close game. And, come playoff time, you’ve got to do that. Exciting, happy for the kids.”
To start the game, the Trojans recorded only a single base hit, a two-run single to center by Blumhorst, but took advantage of a Bureau Valley fielding error and five walks – including a pair with the bases loaded – to take a 4-0 lead before the Storm offense even swung a bat.
Only a great, diving catch by center fielder Keaton Wagenknecht off the bat of Mendota leadoff man Jaron Robinson, hitting the second time around, prevented the Trojans from scoring at least two – probably three – more runs in the top of the game’s first frame.
“We’ve struggled this year with striking out and swinging at bad pitches,” said Sester. “So, one thing we worked on the last couple days (was) just taking good pitches and waiting for theirs, being patient at the plate. Give credit to our kids.”
BV proceeded to chip away, though, at that 4-0 deficit, notching single runs in the second, fourth, and fifth innings.
Josh Renner led off the second with a walk, stole second, moved to third base on an Andrew Harshman groundout, and scored on an RBI single by Trevin Kennedy off the first baseman’s glove.
Harshman beat out an infield single with one out in the fourth. Kennedy and Rokey both walked to load the bases, thus turning over the BV lineup. Mead hit an RBI sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Harshman, to make it a 4-2 Mendota lead.
With one out in the fifth, Bryce Hansen reached on an infield error, moved to second base on a wild pitch, stole third, and came around to score on an errant throw down the left field line, and suddenly, it was 4-3, Trojans.
Next up, Blumhorst’s time on the mound ended when he walked Wagenknecht on a full count. Blumhorst labored through 4 1/3 innings, throwing 102 pitches, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and five walks, while striking out five.
Enter the freshman Zinke, who got a called third strike and a groundout to second to end the Storm threat.
With two out in the bottom of the sixth, BV got a hit-by-pitch followed by yet another walk, but both runners were stranded when Mattingly flied out to right field.
“Offensively, we battled. We had ourselves in situations to succeed,” said Matlick. “We had guys on second base, and we just needed that break-through hit to maybe take the momentum and maybe tie it up or take the lead. And Mendota did a nice job of stopping that, from us capitalizing on.”
Mendota added a big insurance run in the top of the seventh when Cody Zinke, who had walked, boldly advanced from first to third on Robinson’s groundout to short, then raced quickly home on the errant throw to third base.
BV staged a flyout to left and a looking strikeout in the bottom of the seventh, but Renner reached on an infield error to extend the game. The Trojans retired Harshman on a ground ball off the pitcher Zinke’s glove, that Blumhorst, now playing third base, threw to first base just in time to end the game – and BV’s season – in one hour, 59 minutes, under now cloudy skies.
BV starter Wagenknecht took the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) on one hit and five walks in 2/3 inning. Kyle Rokey did a great job of relief pitching for the Storm (6-15), yielding only one unearned run over the final six and 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and six walks, while striking out three Trojans.
Blumhorst, who supplied a first inning two-run single to center, reached base all four times for Mendota, was the winning pitcher.
This was Mendota’s first regional tourney victory since a crazy, 10-9, two-day, 11-inning, 4:09 marathon victory over the Oregon Hawks, interestingly enough, at Oregon High School, on May 20 and 21, 2009.
Mendota returns to Oregon High School to take on No. 2-seeded Forreston on Thursday afternoon