With light quickly fading, the Union baseball Wildcats rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday to defeat O’Fallon Christian in the season opener, 6-5.
“Everybody in our lineup did something to help us get the win tonight,” Union Head Coach Ryan Bailey said.
Playing at Wildcat Ballpark, Union fell behind in the opening inning, 4-0.
“The season started about as bad as it could with five of their first six batters reaching base and us committing one error and two or three mental miscues,” Bailey said. “Coming off the field down 4-0, we were a bit shell-shocked but we’ve got some competitors on this team and we don’t give up. I am proud of the 15 guys in that dugout for finding a way to win this game.”
The Wildcats got two runs back in the bottom of the second, but O’Fallon Christian added a fifth run in the top of the third.
Union scored twice in the fourth and once in the fifth to tie it. Neither team scored in the sixth or seventh, sending it to extra innings.
In the bottom of the ninth, Zeek Koch led off with a walk and Mason Bailey bunted him to second. An error allowed both runners to make it safe to second and first base, respectively.
After another bunt, Koch was forced out at third. Bailey stole third base and then scored on an error to win it for the Wildcats.
Trevor Kelly started the game and went two innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on two hits and two walks. He struck out two.
Derek Hulsey pitched the next five innings, allowing one run on six hits, three walks and a hit batter. He struck out three.
“Derek Hulsey was the key to our victory tonight,” Bailey said. “He came in an inning earlier than expected and due to us being short a pitcher tonight he went about 25 pitches more than we’d planned but those five innings he gave us calmed the team down and gave us a chance to keep cutting into their lead. We have some sore arms right now and for him to give us five strong innings and keep us in the game to have a chance to win was awesome. He showed us tonight that he’ll be a big part of our staff moving forward.”
Peyton Burke was the winning pitcher, throwing the final two innings. He allowed two hits and struck out two.
“Peyton Burke pitched a great last two innings and gave their lineup a different look than they’d seen for the previous seven innings,” Bailey said. “He’s such a competitor and he attacked their lineup and trusted his defense and earned this win.”
Four of Union’s seven hits were for extra bases. Matt Bray tripled. Isaiah Hoelscher, Koch and Drew Willingham doubled.
Burke, Blake Borgmann and Ronin Straatmann singled.
Koch drew two walks. Burke, Bruner, Straatmann, Hoelscher and Willingham walked once.
Hoelscher scored twice while Koch, Bailey, Bray and Straaatmann each scored once.
Straatmann and Willingham each had two RBIs. Burke drove in one.
Union swiped nine bases with Kelly and Straatmann each getting two. Bailey, Bray, Burke, Hoelscher and Koch each had one steal.
Straatmann added a sacrifice fly.
“Zeek Koch had a big double to lead off the fifth inning and was then driven in by Blake Borgmann to tie the game,” Bailey said. “Both guys got their first varsity starts tonight and came through big in the clutch. Drew Willingham had a big two-run double that cut the lead in half and got us back into the game.
“Matt Bray had our first hit of the year, a triple, and Isaiah Hoelscher followed that up with a double, that gave us some energy and gave us a chance to believe we still had a chance in this game,” Bailey continued. “Mason Bailey was able to steal third base and score on the errant throw to get us the win on opening night. And the players not mentioned all did something somewhere that helped get us this win. It was a great team victory.”