GALESBURG -- Throughout the week leading up to Saturday's Western Big 6 Conference twinbill here at Jim Sundberg Field, Rock Island baseball coach Jay Wayland tried to downplay the games' underlying importance.|
Needing to sweep conference co-leader Galesburg to keep their Big 6 title hopes alive, the Rocks got the pitching they needed to do just that. However, Wayland's club found the Silver Streaks equal to the task on a chilly, overcast afternoon.
After Tim Rossell scattered five hits and struck out eight in the Streaks' 3-0 first-game victory, fellow senior right-hander Colton Crain struck out six in the nightcap and allowed just three hits in six innings as Galesburg completed the sweep with a 4-1 win, eliminating Rocky from title contention.
"We never talked about it,'' Wayland said of his 10-12 (3-5 WB6) team's conference status, "but I think our kids knew. You can't control locker room talk, and I'm sure they looked at the paper and saw where we were in the standings, but it really was not our main concern. Our concern has to remain working on things to get better, and I thought we did that (Saturday).
"Both teams had the pitching today; these were two really well-played games. It came down to when Galesburg got its opportunities, it got the hits when it needed them. We didn't play badly, but we just couldn't get the hits when we needed them the most.''
In the opener, Rossell and Rock Island's Tyler Pearson locked up in a duel as they traded goose eggs through the first four innings. Galesburg (19-5, 6-2) broke the ice in the bottom of the fifth inning with all three of its runs. Drake Sykes tripled with one out to score two runs, then came home on Chad Johnson's sacrifice fly.
That turned out to be plenty for Rossell (7-0), who posted his third shutout out of four Big 6 victories. He capped his performance by pitching out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the seventh.
"It gives me more adrenalin, and I think it's more fun,'' Rossell said. "There's nothing better than that, although I always like the win. And playing (to stay in) first place, that always adds a little extra. It makes us want to come out and battle, to see who can win the conference.''
Both teams struck for runs in the first inning of the second game. The Rocks went up 1-0 when Ashton Faramelli walked and scored on a Jake Scudder groundout. The Streaks responded in similar fashion with Carson Cheesman walked and scored on a Chans Sugden grounder.
Crain (5-0) and Rocky's Matt Erickson kept that 1-1 tie intact until the bottom of the fourth, when the Silver Streaks took the lead for good on a two-run single by Drew Nall (3-for-3). Cheesman then added an RBI single in the sixth, and pitched a scoreless seventh to earn his first save.
"It's the same old thing. Pitching and defense will win you baseball games, and we've gotten solid pitching throughout the year,'' said Galesburg coach Arnie Gonzalez.
The Streaks face O'Fallon today at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and wrap up Big 6 play here next Saturday against Alleman.
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