Getting a late jump on the season due to wet weather, Borgia did all of its damage in the Four Rivers Baseball Classic in a two-day span, winning four games and claiming the tournament title.
The Knights (4-0) played a pair of one-run games Saturday in the championship bracket at St. Clair High School, knocking off Pacific in the championship contest, 3-2.
“We won four games in 24 hours. I don’t think that will ever happen again in my career,” said Borgia Head Coach Rob Struckhoff. “That’s what you see in slow-pitch softball, but not high school baseball. I’m very proud of the team for what they did.”
Borgia won the tournament title for the second time in three years. Pacific won it last year.
“Playing against Pacific, Jeff (Reed) always is going to have them ready to go,” Struckhoff said. “Both teams were pretty much done with pitching. They had four games this week. We had four games in the last two days, so it was just a battle of what arms were left. Both defenses made plays and there was timely hitting. We just had one more timely hit than they did. That’s what it came down to. It was about as even as a game as you can get.”
The Indians (3-1) left the bases loaded without scoring in the first and fifth innings.
“It was a good game that will make both teams better,” said Pacific Head Coach Jeff Reed. “Their shortstop (Grant Eckelkamp) made a couple of great plays. Both teams had good pitching and good defense.”
Both starting pitchers, Borgia’s Matt Jones and Pacific’s Nick Hogan, were on a pitch count and went four innings.
Jones allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits with one walk and nine strikeouts to earn the win.
“Jones did a good job working the outer half of the plate and we didn’t make the adjustments,” Reed said. “We struck out 10 times. Kudos to Jones, but our hitters have to be able to make adjustments at the plate.”
Justin Molitor worked a scoreless fifth inning. He issued three walks and had one strikeout.
John Himmelberg pitched the final two frames for the save. He allowed no runs on two hits with no walks or strikeouts.
“Molitor and Himmelberg are two sophomores who made their varsity debuts. They both were confident. I wouldn’t have put them in there if I didn’t think they could do it,” Struckhoff said. “Talk about a weekend, Jones caught 3 1/2 games and pitched the other half. I asked him (Friday) night, which game he wanted (Saturday). He said whatever I thought was best. I preferred he caught the first game, so he pitched the second. We kept him on a pitch count and relied on Molitor and Himmelberg to get it done. He’s going to be good for us. Matt and Tony Helfrich both have a lot of experience.”
Hogan allowed two runs on five hits with one walk and one strikeout.
Ryan Howell tossed the final three frames and suffered the loss. He allowed one unearned run on no hits with one walk and one strikeout.
“We have only one senior arm on the team, Zeth Boyer. Our younger guys have done a good job limiting their walks and giving us an opportunity to win games,” Reed said. “Our pitching has been good. It was good enough to win the game.”
The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on a two-run double by Hank Vandaveer.
Borgia tied the game 2-2 in the top of the fourth inning on a two run-double by Nick Jacquin.
In the top of the fifth, Grant Eckelkamp hit a slow roller to third base, the throw to first deflected off Eckelkamp and rolled away, allowing Eckelkamp to reach second base.
Eckelkamp later scored the go-ahead run on an RBI groundout by Jones to make the score 3-2.
“We got a bit of a break with Eckelkamp getting on base and it turned out that he scored the winning run,” Struckhoff said. “Then they got a couple of guys on base, hit a screamer up the middle and we turned a double play. Baseball is a game of inches. It could have gone either way. I’m happy it went our way.”
Noah Borgerding, Tony Helfrich, Nathaniel Hillermann, Jones and Jacquin each had one hit for Borgia.
Helfrich, Hillermann and Eckelkamp scored. Jacquin had two RBIs and Jones added one. Helfrich and Himmelberg both drew a walk.
“We had guys get big hits and that was the story of the weekend,” Struckhoff said. “We scored more runs (Friday) than we did (Saturday). When we have 2-1 and 3-2 games, that shows you we played good defense and had some timely hitting. That’s a good sign for the rest of the season.”
Tanner Brown collected two hits for Pacific. Tyler Straatmann, Brandon Colter and Vandaveer each added one hit.
Allen Fitzgerald and Colter both scored a run. Vandaveer had two RBIs. Zeth Boyer, Jake Null, Fitzgerald and Straatmann each drew a walk.
“I’m about as proud of our guys as I’ve ever been with the way they played this weekend. We have three or four guys who played last year, so there’s not much experience. We threw four sophomores in the last two days who have never played varsity ball,” Struckhoff said. “It’s a fun tournament. Coach (Greg) Dunigan and St. Clair did a good job running it. We’re happy to win it. There are a lot of good teams in the tournament.”