ROANOKE – With as many baserunners as Peoria Heights and Roanoke-Benson/Lowpoint-Washburn stranded on May 16, there should have been more runs scored than there were.
Despite leaving the bags loaded in three separate innings, the Patriots outlasted the regional hosts 6-5 at Bill Zeman Field.
The Rockets (13-16) had the tying run in scoring positon in the bottom of the fifth, as well as the tying run 90 feet away and the winning one aboard in the seventh. Both times they came up empty.
“I’m never going to think that we’re not able to win,” RBLW coach Wade Hunter said. “You have to create your own breaks.”
The Rockets had two on with one out in the fifth, but PH’s Trevor Heath wiggled out of trouble with a groundout and strikeout.
In the seventh, he got the final out with a strikeout, his eighth of the game. Heath piled up 114, one shy of the 115-pitch limit rule for the state tournament series so he nearly had to be lifted.
At the outset, he struggled getting his breaking ball over, but that improved as the game wore on.
“I honestly think it only bugged two batters,” recollected Hunter. “You could see his curveball coming. The problem is he throws a decent fastball. We knew what he had.”
RBLW trailed 4-0 going into the bottom of the third when an infield popup by Jake Weber was muffed. The next pitch saw Jarrett Bline get one in the jet stream for a two-run homer to right center. Jack Weber tripled in Ben Monge to cut the PH (6-16) lead to 4-3.
According to Hunter, the Rockets were making solid contact and tried to take advantage of the southwest winds blowing out.
“We smoked the ball. We had five hard outs,” he said. “To be honest, I think we had to put the ball on the ground more.”
PH expanded on a 1-0 lead with three in the top of the third, which was keyed by a two-out, two-run double by Austin LaRoe. A two-run single in the fourth by Connor Barnes gave the guests a 6-3 advantage.
Jacob Nix (2-3) allowed six runs (four earned) on four hits in three and two-thirds. RBLW did benefit from the relief work of the Weber brothers, who combined for three and a third scoreless.
Each squad had nine hits. Bline paced the hosts with three, while Jack Weber followed with two. Hunter McCaw and Michael Whalen each had two hits for the Patriots.
“When you’re down 4-0, you cannot give away outs,” Hunter said. “You have to be able to hit the ball. Zero, one, two (runs), most nights, you’re not going to win. We score three, four, five, you have a chance to win. The problem was we put guys on and then we made errors. We did not make the plays when we needed to.”
PH stranded 12 runners on base, eight in scoring position, while the Rockets left nine, five in scoring position.
The Patriots’ season ended with a 10-0 defeat to Delavan in the May 18 final. It was stopped in the fifth because of the 10-run rule.