(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
EAST PRAIRIE -- Surrendering six runs in the final two innings on Monday, the East Prairie Eagles watch a late three-run lead against Saxony Lutheran slip away as the Crusaders pulled out a 6-4 win.
"The big that happened with us is we couldn't get the timely hit," East Prairie assistant coach Jason Aycock said. "We stranded a lot of base runners. The defense played well, but when we did make that one error it cost us a big run."
Despite surrendering nine walks through the first four innings, Saxony Lutheran managed to stay in the game, down 3-0, entering the top of the sixth.
The Crusaders started their rally with a pair of walks and a single from Ethan Mirly to load the bases before Luke LeGrand knocked in the team's first two runs of the game on a line drive to right field.
After Saxony Lutheran reloaded the bases, Chase Steffens tied the game with a grounder back to the pitcher before a passed ball in the next at-bat allowed the Crusaders to take their first lead of the game at 4-3.
"We had allowed (9) walks through three and a third, but had only allowed three runs" Saxony Lutheran head coach Paul Sander said. "So we were just lucky because they failed to put us away. It could have been 7-0 or 8-0 and we couldn't have come back."
After holding East Prairie scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, the Crusaders came back up in the seventh and added a pair of insurance runs.
With runners on second and third after a passed ball, Trent Steffens scored on a ball that rolled to the backstop before a grounder up the middle by Tyler Koeing scored Gabe Bohnert from third to give his team a 6-3 advantage.
"You have to tell them don't be satisfied with a 4-3 lead at home or on the road," Sander said. "When you get two more then it looks pretty big. As it turns out we might still be playing had we not got those runs."
Down to their final three outs, the Eagles made one last stand as Shawn King opened the bottom of the seventh drawing a walk. After a pair of outs, and with King still on first, Adam Dill cut East Prairie's deficit to two with a double to the fence in left.
A pop up near the second base bag in the next at-bat, however, ended the Eagles chances.
"You cannot strand base runners like that," Aycock said. "Especially this early in the year you have to be able to get that timely hit and that's the big difference, we couldn't come up with the timely hits today."
Though they left their fair of base runners on the paths, East Prairie took an early lead after a pair of game-opening walks by the Crusaders allowed Zach Downing to bring in Nathan Maynard from third on a pop fly to centerfield.
Singling with one out in the third, Shawn King eventually came home from third on a sacrifice grounder.
Giving the Eagles a 3-0 lead, Downing doubled to left field in the fourth to bring home Maynard from second base.
Taking the loss, Dalton Golightly held Saxony Lutheran scoreless through five innings before the Crusaders plated four runs in the fourth. Golightly went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and five walks while striking out two and inducing a pair of double plays.
"He threw a heck of a game," Aycock said of Golightly. "He got tired right there in the sixth inning. We had some walks and then (a pair of) errors hurt us right there."
Coming in to finish the fourth, Trent Steffens picked up the win. He pitched the final 3 1/3 innings of relief, surrendering one run on one hit and a walk while striking out three.
"He's an unbelievable senior leader on our team," Sander said of Steffens. "He's a potential all-state player and he has to do that for us. For us to do well Trent Steffens has to play well."
Leading the Crusaders' nine-hit effort, Trent Steffens, Clayton Fritsche and Mirly had two hits each.
In the Eagles' three-hit effort, Downing and Dill had a double each with King singling and scoring a run.
Saxony Lutheran 000 004 2 -- 6
East Prairie 101 100 1 -- 4
WP -- Trent Steffens. LP -- Dalton Golightly. 2B -- (EP) Zach Downing, Adam Dill.