Trailing 3-1 Monday in the bottom of the fifth against league rival St. Dominic, the St. Francis Borgia Regional Knights needed something big.
And senior Spencer Hunter delivered.
Hunter’s grand slam propelled the Knights (16-6, 6-0) to the outright Archdiocesan Athletic Association Large Division title. St. Dominic (17-7, 2-2) had been the only team with a chance to tie Borgia heading into the day.
“St. Dominic is a good team,” Borgia Head Coach Rob Struckhoff said. “They’re the No. 1 seed in their district and a tough conference opponent. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead with good pitching. We battled. We hadn’t played in a week. Once we got through the lineup once, our confidence came back and we got some guys on base.”
Facing an 0-2 count, Hunter fought off the third Matt Hanson pitch for a foul. Then, he got in front of another pitch and pulled it down the right field line. It hooked around the foul pole before falling for a game-changing grand slam.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Struckhoff said. “I couldn’t really tell from third base. Spencer Unnerstall, our first base coach, said it was legit and fair by a couple of feet. There were no problems there.”
So, in one stroke of the bat, a 3-1 deficit turned into a 5-3 lead and that was just enough for the win after St. Dominic scored a final run in the bottom of the sixth.
“It was a great comeback against a very good St. Dominic team,” Struckhoff said.
St. Dominic struck first by scoring in the top of the fourth. Hanson moved around to third before Noah Hankins hit a hard grounder off of Borgia pitcher Joe Schmidt. Schmidt recovered to make a play, but Hankins hustled to first and barely beat the throw to Hunter. Hanson scored.
Nick Bone followed that with a two-run home run to left field to make it 3-0.
Borgia finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth. Adam Molitor singled and Josh Garbs ran for the Borgia catcher.
With one out, Jack Czeschin singled and Bryce Mayer doubled.
“Jack Czeschin had the big at-bat,” Struckhoff said. “He gets hit by a pitch and they take it away from him and he still gets a hit behind it.”
Garbs scored on the Mayer hit. After Schmidt was hit by a pitch, Hunter came to the plate.
Hunter’s home run was not the final scoring of the game. St. Dominic got a final run in the top of the sixth. Hanson was struck by a Nick Helfrich pitch to lead off and Jack McCormick doubled to left, putting runners on second and third with nobody out.
Jackson Dearing then hit a sharp grounder to Mayer at short and he opted to throw to third to try and get the running McCormick. Borgia was able to get him out on a rundown, but Hanson scored to make it 5-4.
Borgia escaped the jam on a double play, Schmidt at third to Czeschin at second to Hunter at first.
In the seventh, St. Dominic threatened again. Bone doubled. His pinch runner appeared to make third on a flyout to center, but Borgia got a double play on an appeal when the umpire judged he left the bag early. Borgia got the final out on a grounder to seal the league title.
“They play hard,” Struckhoff said. “You like to play good teams like that at the end of the year and see where you stand. We played pretty well.”
Borgia outhit St. Dominic, 5-4. St. Dominic made both errors in the game.
Schmidt started for Borgia and went four innings, allowing three runs on two hits and one walk. He struck out five.
“Joe gave us an outstanding start,” Struckhoff said. “He gave up three runs, but he was lights out through the first three innings.”
Helfrich was the winning pitcher, going the last three innings while allowing one run on two hits and a hit batter. He struck out one.
“We played good defense behind both pitchers,” Struckhoff said.
St. Dominic used three pitchers. Ricky Martinez started and went three innings, allowing a hit, two walks and a hit batter. He struck out two.
Ryan Foley pitched 1.1 innings, allowing three runs on three hits and a hit batter. He struck out one.
Hanson took the loss. Over 1.2 innings, he was charged with two runs on one hit and a hit batter. He struck out two.
Czeschin had two of the five Borgia hits, both singles.
Hunter homered while Mayer doubled. Molitor added the other single.
Schmidt and Tyler Glosemeyer walked. Louie Eckelkamp, Mayer and Schmidt were hit by pitches.
Czeschin, Mayer, Schmidt, Hunter and Garbs scored the runs.
Hunter drove in four and Mayer had the other RBI.
Bone had two of the four St. Dominic hits, a home run and a double.
McCormick doubled and Hankins singled.
Hansen walked and was hit by a pitch. McCormick sacrificed.
Hanson scored twice while Hankins and Bone scored once. Bone drove in two and Dearing and Hankins each had one RBI.