It was a back-and-forth game between Washington and St. Clair in Pool B action of the Four Rivers Baseball Classic Thursday at Ronsick Field.
In the end, the Blue Jays emerged in their season opener with a 7-6 victory over the Bulldogs.
Washington (1-0) can win the pool title and host the Saturday’s championship bracket with a win Friday at Festus. A loss means all three teams in the pool would be 1-1 and tiebreakers would come into play.
“We don’t want tiebreakers to determine where we play Saturday. We have to go to Festus and take care of business,” said Washington Head Coach Scott Bray. “We’ll see what happens. We know we have to clean things up and play a better game to come away with a win.”
St. Clair (1-3) still has a chance to win the pool, but needs help from Festus, a team the Bulldogs defeated earlier in the week, to at least have a chance.
“Our team has really progressed and we will continue to get better,” said St. Clair Head Coach Rob Hauck. “It’s still very early in the season and I’m very pleased with our effort and determination.”
The Bulldogs grabbed a 2-1 lead with a run in the top of the fifth inning, but the Blue Jays responded with five runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 6-2 advantage.
St. Clair tied the game 6-6 with four runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Again, the Blue Jays responded with a run in the bottom of the sixth to take a 7-6 lead and held on in the seventh.
“We preach to our guys that we have to make the routine plays,” Bray said. “We had some errors in the sixth inning and they got some hits. We came back with a big run in the bottom half to take the lead.”
Luke Hasenjaeger got the start on the mound for Washington for a no-decision. In 4.2 innings, he allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits with two walks, one hit batter and three strikeouts.
Pete Coulter and Andrew Sumner worked in relief. Sumner was credited with the win, working 1.2 frames. “Hasenjaeger again showed he’s the athlete we all know him to be,” Bray said. “We were looking for him to only go three innings, but he got out of the first inning with only eight pitches, so we extended him a little. He got tired in the fifth and we went to Coulter.”
Jake Oermann pitched the first 4.2 innings for St. Clair. He allowed six runs, three earned, on five hits with one walk, one hit batter and two strikeouts.
Greg Marler worked the final 1.2 frames and suffered the loss. He allowed one run on two hits with one hit batter and three strikeouts.
Dilan Bollmann collected two hits and three RBIs at the plate for Washington. Mike Reinhold also had two hits.
Brock Hopkins and Hasenjaeger both added one hit.
Brenden Murphy had two hits, a walk and three RBIs for St. Clair. Dylan Nappier also collected two hits.
Kody Halmich finished with one hit and two runs. Blake Dierking had one hit.
“We played a really hard, competitive game. Washington always is tough and we knew we would have to limit our mistakes in order to pick up the win,” Hauck said. “Our boys kept their heads up and continued to fight throughout the game. We ended up letting our mistakes catch up to us.”
St. Clair opened the tournament Tuesday with an 11-7 home victory over Festus.
“With cold weather like we had, I knew it would be hard for the team to stay focused, but I felt we gave everything we had throughout the game,” Hauck said. “Our boys put the weather in the back of their minds and played a great game.”
The Bulldogs scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back. They added one run in the second, three in the fourth and two in the sixth.
Festus scored three in the second, one in the fourth, two in the sixth and one in the seventh.
Murphy pitched all seven innings for St. Clair to earn the win. He allowed seven runs, four earned, on nine hits with three walks, two hit batters and four strikeouts.
“Our game plan going into the game was to stay focused on making plays for Murphy and putting the ball in play,” Hauck said. “Defensively, we made a few mistakes, but as the season goes on and we get more time on the field, I believe we will become more comfortable.”
Leading the Bulldogs’ 12-hit attack was Austin Gotway, who was 3-3 at the plate with two walks, two RBIs and one run.
Ben Fedderson belted a home run, finishing with two hits, one hit batsman, four RBIs and two runs.
Oermann collected two hits, two RBIs and two runs.
Dierking added two hits and one run.
Ayden Carey, Dylon Nappier and Halmich each had one hit.
“I have been very pleased with our hitters and their approach at the plate. It was a team win. Offensively, we could not have done it without Gotway and Fedderson,” Hauck said. “Murphy’s pitching performance was also a bright spot and we continue to build our confidence with him on the mound.”