On a pretty spring day, such as Tuesday, a drive to Salem can be a relaxing experience.
That wasn’t the case for the Union baseball Wildcats, although the result was worth the delayed arrival as Union (11-12) won, 4-2.
The trip wasn’t quite Homer’s “The Odyssey,” but it wasn’t a drive through the hills and woods either. The Union bus suffered a breakdown, stranding the team until another bus could be dispatched.
“We had quite the adventure on the way to the game,” Union Head Coach Ryan Bailey said. “The transmission on our bus went out so we had to wait for a second bus to pick us up. Once we got on our way again we were able to get to the game a little late but Salem was very accommodating and let us warm up and get started about 45 minutes late. Due to our long time sitting on the bus we looked rough in warmups but once the game started I thought we played one of our better games of the year. It was great to see heading into the district.”
That resulted in a later arrival in Dent County, but Union was able to take care of business.
The Wildcats took the lead with three runs in the top of the third and tacked on another run in the fourth. Salem scored its two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Union outhit Salem, 9-5, and the Tigers committed the game’s only two errors.
It was a big day for Andrew Bruner, who was the winning pitcher and set another program record.
Bruner was hit by a pitch, establishing a new season record in that category with seven.
Bruner allowed two runs on four hits over his five innings while striking out four for the win.
Blake Griffin threw the final two innings for the save. He allowed one hit and struck out one batter.
“Our pitching was very strong against Salem, with Andrew Bruner and Blake Griffin both giving us superb efforts on the mound,” Bailey said. “As a pair, they didn’t allow any walks and were able to complete the game in a combined 75 pitches. Neither guy is a flamethrower but they both pound the zone and use movement and offspeed pitches to keep the hitters off balance. As we head into districts it’s good to know that we can count on them both to provide innings if needed.”
Offensively, Jacob Fleming led the way with three hits, including two doubles.
Trevor Kelly posted two hits, including a double.
Avery Morrow doubled while Peyton Burke, Caleb Mabe and Jake Kleekamp singled.
Union drew four walks. Fleming, Morrow, Bruner and Kleekamp walked. Bruner was hit by a pitch and Kelly posted a sacrifice fly.
Burke, Kelly and Kleekamp stole bases.
Burke, Kelly, Fleming and Matt Bray scored the runs.
Kelly, Fleming, Morrow and Mabe recorded the RBIs.
“I was very pleased with how our offense performed during the game,” Bailey said. “Our hitting looked better than it has in a while, led by Trevor Kelly and Jacob Fleming, both with multi-hit games. Trevor has been struggling at the plate so to see him hit the ball hard again was a huge positive for us heading toward districts. Jacob has really been seeing the ball well and he’s in one of the best stretches I remember him having at the plate. We had many other guys with hits and if we can get our lineup all producing at the same time we give ourselves a chance in most games.”
For Salem, Nate Bray started and went three innings. He allowed three runs on five hits and four walks. He took the loss.
Boone Schrader pitched the last four innings, allowing one run on four hits and one hit batter. He struck out five Wildcats.
Nate Bray was the top Salem hitter with two of the five hits. He doubled.
Schrader, Lawson Toman and Jordan Shults singled. Toman stole a base.
Schrader and Toman scored the runs. Toman and Shults posted RBIs.
Both teams head to district tournaments later this week.
Union is seeded third for the Class 4 District 3 Tournament in Pacific. The Wildcats take on sixth-seeded St. Clair Friday at 6:30 p.m.
The winner moves on to play second-seeded Borgia Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The title game is set for Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Lutheran South is the top seed and the Lancers defeated Union for the district title last year before finishing second in the state event.
Salem is seeded sixth for the Class 4 District 9 Tournament in Sullivan. The Tigers take on third-seeded St. James Saturday at 2 p.m.
Helias is the top seed and gets a bye in the opening round. Southern Boone is seeded second and plays No. 7 Owensville Saturday at noon.
Sullivan is seeded fourth and opens against fifth-seeded Blair Oaks Saturday at 10 a.m.