In a pitching duel between Borgia’s Tony Helfrich and Union’s Ashton Dehn, it was the host Wildcats who struck first.
But visiting Borgia struck the most Tuesday at East Central College, winning 8-2.
“I was happy to get out of Union with a win,” Borgia Head Coach Rob Struckhoff said. “Dehn pitched a great game against us. He really kept us off balance in the early going. I thought we did a better job getting pitches to hit later in the game and he may have tired a bit. We were also able to capitalize on a couple of mistakes.”
Union (4-8) broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, drawing first blood in a tight contest between the two hurlers.
“It was shaping up to be another close game between the two of us and then we let it get away,” Union Head Coach Ryan Bailey said. “Errors happen in baseball and lately for us they just seem to happen at the worst possible moment. Once we were down we had to keep Ashton in the game to save some pitching for the weekend. He tired, which made the score look more lopsided than it was, but overall he pitched a good game and probably deserved better.”
But Borgia (12-6) woke up its bats with three runs in the top of the fifth and five more in the top of the sixth to win the game, 8-2.
Helfrich went the distance, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk. He struck out seven Wildcats.
“Tony Helfrich was great on the hill,” Struckhoff said. “He had everything going — command, movement, and velocity. It’s the best he’s pitched all year and I know he’ll use this as a steppingstone toward getting even better. He’s got the ability to be a really good one.”
Dehn went six innings and got key contributions from his defense to help out early in the game, although three misplays hurt later in the contest.
Drew Juengel finished out the game, throwing the seventh inning. He walked one and struck out one.
Only one of the eight Borgia runs was earned. Dehn allowed nine hits and three walks while fanning three Knights.
Borgia was led offensively by Trent Leimkuehler, who smacked four hits, including a double and a triple. He drove in five of the Borgia runs and stole a base.
“Trent was phenomenal at the plate,” Struckhoff said. “Too bad ECC doesn’t have a team anymore. He’d be an All-American with the way he’s hit at that field the last few years.”
Noah Borgerding and Brendan Feldmann each contributed two hits in the game. Borgerding doubled and scored a run. Feldmann scored once and drove in a run.
Jack Kopmann and Brendan Kleekamp each had one hit. Kopmann scored twice and drove in a run. Kleekamp scored and walked.
“Brendan Feldmann, Noah Borgerding and Jack Kopmann also had big hits,” Struckhoff said. “Feldmann has really come a long way this year with his bat and play in the field. I’m really proud of the work he’s put in.”
Also for Borgia, Grant Eckelkamp walked twice and scored twice, Jacob Haskins walked, Todd Kleekamp scored a run and Austin Rettke added a sacrifice.
Union was paced offensively by Tyler Johnson, who had two hits and one run.
Union’s other hits came from Devon Fennessey and Derek King.
Johnson and King scored Union’s runs while Fennessey and Jordan Weaks added RBIs.
Logan Williams drew a walk. King and Weaks contributed sacrifices.
Borgia picked up another big win over a district rival Thursday by beating Blair Oaks 5-1 at Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field.
“It was a big win for us,” Struckhoff said. “Beating a state-ranked team in our district will definitely help us in the seedings. Before the game we talked about state rankings not meaning anything until the end of the year. However, we felt disrespected by not being mentioned in the most recent rankings. We knew we had a chance to make a statement by playing well against a great team like Blair Oaks and we did.”
The Knights scored once in the first, once in the third and twice in the fifth before Blair Oaks scored a run in the top of the sixth. Borgia added its final run in the bottom of that inning.
Brendan Kleekamp went the distance on the hill, allowing one run on two hits and three walks. He struck out 11 Falcons.
“What a game for Brendan Kleekamp,” said Struckhoff. “He set the tone early by striking out the side in the first. Everyone finally got to see him at his best. He was completely dominant even though he was sick with a fever earlier in the morning. Sometimes when you’re physically not healthy it’s actually easier. You just let your natural instincts and talents take over and quit thinking. He was amazing. This is a big confidence builder for him and our team.”
Borgerding, Helfrich, Jones and Leimkuehler each had two hits in the game. Borgerding doubled and drove in two. Helfrich scored and walked. Jones doubled and drove in one. Leimkuehler doubled, scored once, drove in two and added a sacrifice.
Eckelkamp and Rettke each had one double.
Michael Kren scored a run while Alex Jasper added two sacrifices. Kopmann scored a run.
“Once again, we played errorless baseball,” Struckhoff said. “Our outfield play really has improved. Brendan Feldmann made a couple nice plays in left, while Trent ran down a deep ball to right-center in the sixth that stopped their best chance to rally.”
The Knights host O’Fallon Christian Saturday at noon and Hermann Monday at 4:30 p.m.
The Wildcats improved to 4-3 in Four Rivers Conference play with a 10-0 home win over St. James.
Union scored twice in the second, twice in the third three times in the fourth and three times in the fifth to end the game early.
Big pitching performances have been a key in Union’s wins and Weaks came through with another. He held the Tigers to just one hit and one walk while striking out 13.
“Jordan is an enigma,” Bailey said. “Some days he comes out and struggles with finding the zone while other times he is lights out. Today he was on and just dominated their lineup. The hit he gave up was a slow roller that found a hole and his walk was a great at bat by their cleanup hitter who fouled off at least seven pitches for a 12-pitch at bat. Jordan can be one of the elite players in the league and it’s outings like this where that potential can be seen.”
Offensively, Johnson had three hits, two runs, one RBI, a walk and three stolen bases.
“TJ Johnson has been getting hot at the right time,” Bailey said. “In the past week he’s set our school’s all-time career stolen base record and our all-time career singles record. He hit leadoff this past game and was able to reach base all four times he came to the plate. That’s exactly what we need from him as we head into districts.”
Weaks helped his own cause with two hits and an RBI. Trey Fink had two hits, a run and two RBIs.
Batters with one hit were Fennessey (two RBIs) and Austin Bentlage (two runs, one walk, hit by pitch).
King added a run and an RBI. Williams scored twice, walked and was hit by a pitch. Aldwin Fleer scored and stole a base. Juengel scored a run and walked.
Union played Friday in the title game of the Potosi Tournament against Winfield.
The Wildcats visit Warrenton Monday in a 4 p.m. game