ANNAWAN -- Until someone takes it from their hands, the Annawan-Wethersfield Titans consider the Lincoln Trail Conference baseball crown theirs to own.|
Hosting fellow contender Mercer County in a crucial conference doubleheader Saturday at Howes Park, Coach Jeff Parsons' club let that attitude show in their play. After using a seven-run fifth inning to erase a three-run deficit in an 8-3 first-game victory, the Titans completed the sweep with an 11-4 win.
A-W (17-4)moves into a second-place tie with the Golden Eagles (13-3) at 11-2, with only Ridgewood (18-3, 14-0 LTC) ahead of them.
"Mercer County is good, but we feel like we're pretty good, too,'' said Parsons. "It seems like there hasn't been a lot of talk about us winning the LTC title this year after only losing two kids (from 2012's conference champions).Not to sound arrogant, but we think it's our title to have until someone takes it away from us. We'll celebrate a bit today, but then we play Ridgewood and Galva Monday and Tuesday, then Galva again Thursday. There's no rest for the wicked.''
Mercer County, which has two games with Ridgewood this week, knows it can't dwell on Saturday's losses as it still has a chance at the title should it beat the Spartans and A-W stumbles.
"We've got to battle back,'' said MC coach Nick Basala. "We can still win a title, but we've got to play better. We can't play like today and expect to win.''
In the first game, A-W's Matt Jenkins and Mercer County starter Tanner Matlick hooked up for four innings of scoreless baseball, with each team mustering only two hits in that span. Things changed in the fifth inning for both, however.
First using two well-placed bunts by Jesse Snyder and Tyson Russell to go up 1-0, followed by consecutive doubles by Tyson Nylin and A.J. Line, the Eagles grabbed a 3-0 lead. A-W responded by sending 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, scoring seven times and knocking Matlick (2-1) out of the game.
Zach VanWassenhove's RBI double capped the frame, with RBI singles by Jake Bennett and Trey Hannam fueling the fire beforehand. Hannam finished with three hits and VanWassenhove was 2-for-4 with two RBIs to support Jenkins, who went the distance and tallied nine strikeouts.
"That was a huge relief,'' Jenkins (5-1) said of his teammates' fifth-inning response to Mercer County's first strike, "but I knew my teammates would come back and get some runs.''
In the second game, A-W led 2-1 before sending 11 batters up in the bottom of the second to score six runs. Kegan Jacobson's two-out, three-run double was the decisive blow.
Cody Phillips was 2-for-4 with three RBIs, with Trevor Lay and Jake Bennett each adding two hits and two RBIs to back the pitching of Tyler Litton (5-0), who struck out seven and allowed two earned runs.
Spartans sweep:Ridgewood pounded out 19 hits andGalva-Williamsfield committed 13 errors as the Spartans won the LTC twinbill by scores of 15-4 and 12-1.
Noah Shannon had a pair of two-hit, three-RBI games in addition to earning the first-game pitching victory, running his mark to 6-0. Teammate Nate Humphrey struck out eight to move to 4-0 in the nightcap, and also had a pair of two-hit games. Nick Ragan had four RBIs for the twinbill.
"We had some good approaches at the plate today,'' said Ridgewood coach Seth Spivey. "Both (G-W pitchers) Tyler and James Doubet gave us fits last year, and we've been working a long time to prepare for today. Noah had the big hit that chased (Tyler) in the fifth inning, a two-run double that made it 6-1.''
A four-run third in the opener enabled Ridgewood to erase a 3-2 deficit, with RBI singles by Blayne Street and Shannon giving it the lead. Dusty Werner's RBI single in the second game up the Spartans up 2-1, a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Now, Spivey and his players have a rugged week to look forward to as they seek their first LTC title.
"The schedule-makers got it right, I guess,'' he said. "The teams get to settle this on the field. We couldn't ask for a better opportunity, but we've got to play well.''
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