(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Already holding wins over Advance and Scott County Central from earlier in the week, the Charleston Bluejays entered Friday's contest against Saxony Lutheran with a chance for their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Coming away with only three hits in the game, however, the Bluejays saw a pair of late four-run rallies by the Crusaders seal an 11-2 loss.
"That was a game that very easily could have been a 7-3 win for us," Charleston head coach Michael Minner said. "We just don't make the routine plays and when you don't make routine plays or put the ball in play bad things are going to happen and that was evident today."
Though the afternoon started out strong for the Bluejays, manufacturing the go-ahead run in the first inning, things quickly went downhill as they barely escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the second.
Back up in the third, the Crusaders were able to make up for their misfortunes the previous frame as an inside-the-park home run from Trent Steffens tied the game.
Later in the inning, Saxony took the lead for good when a fielder's choice from Chase Steffens brought home another run.
It wasn't until after the Crusaders plated another run in the fourth that their bats started to heat up as they went on to score eight runs in the final three innings.
Highlighting a four-run fifth both Tyler Keonig and Jack Lake drove in a pair of runs to pull Saxony ahead 7-1.
Charleston retaliated with a run in the bottom of the sixth to close back to within five runs only to see the Crusaders close out their offense performance with another four-run rally in the seventh.
"I thought it was a tale of two games for us," Saxony head coach Paul Sander said. "We were really struggling to find our stroke at the plate for the first two or three innings and we really didn't hit the ball hard in those innings.
"Then about the fourth inning we started hitting some balls hard and in the fifth, sixth and seventh they started falling."
Capping the Crusaders offensive performance Trent Steffens hit his second inside-the-park home run of the contest to score three runs and make up the 11-2 final. Similar to his first shot, Steffens lined a ball to centerfield that was just a few feet over the center fielder's head. With the ball rolling back to the wall each time a hustling Steffens was able to round the bags and easily score.
"Of course he has great wheels," Sander said of Steffens. "When it gets over the outfielder's head here and you have good wheels you're going to have a chance to score."
It was a passed ball with runners on second and third that plated the first run of Saxony's seventh inning rally.
In going 4 1/3 innings starting pitcher Jon Winkler earned the win for the Crusaders. He allowed one earned run on two hits and three walks while striking out six.
Winkler left the mound with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Clay Roth came in to close out the fifth unscathed before closing out the game, giving up one run on one hit and two walks while striking out three.
"Winkler pitched about three days ago so he was on three days rest," Sander said of his starter. "About four or five innings was about all I was expecting to get out of him. He's a location pitcher. If he's got good location and a good off speed pitch he'll get people out. If he's up in the zone and out over the middle of the plate he gets hurt. Last three or four time out he's had good location so he's helped us."
After starting the game with a pair of hits in the first inning Charleston finished the contest getting outhit 12-3.
Corey Adams opened up the game with s ingle before being driven in by a Michael double in the first innings. It wasn't until the seventh when D.J. Adams singled with two outs that the Bluejays secured their next hit.
"We lead the game off with a base hit, bunt him over to second and then get a base hit," Minner said. "That's just a great baseball run, but that's where the momentum stopped.
"Nothing really good happen for us (after that). We didn't have much energy from the get go. It got ugly. We hung in there early, but once things went south they kind of snowballed on us."
Leading the Crusaders' 12 hit effort Trent Steffens finished the night 3 for 4 with four runs driven in and three scored. Gabe Bohnert, Winkler and Jack Lake had two hits each, including a double by Bohnert.
Charleston falls to 4-17 on the season while Saxony improves to 12-8.
Saxony 002 140 4 - 11 12 3
Charleston 100 001 0 - 2 3 3
WP -- Jon Winkler. LP -- Casey Tatum. Multiple hitters: (S) Gabe Bohnert 2-5, Jon Winkler 2-4, Trent Steffens 3-4, Jack Lake 2-4. 2B -- (C) Michael Baugh; (S) Bohnert, Lake. HR -- (S) Steffens 2.