Two clutch hits gave the Central DeWitt baseball team the all-important momentum during last Wednesday’s 3A Substate 4 final with Marion.
Two errant throws gave it all back.
Trailing 4-2 in the fifth inning, the Sabers picked up back-to-back two-out hits to pull even with the Indians.
The tie, however, was broken by the visitors.
Marion coaxed a one-out walk and the game turned when the next batter hit a grounder back to pitcher Noah Thein.
Hoping to start an inning-ending double play, Thein fired the ball to second, but the throw was off the mark. The Sabers tried to get the lead runner, Jake Trca, advancing to third base as well, but the throw was late. As this was going on, the batter, Jaqson Tejada, headed to the now open second base.
The Sabers attempted to throw him out, but that throw was also off the mark, allowing Trca to score.
With the momentum and the lead back on their side, the Indians made sure it stayed there, retiring Central DeWitt in the bottom of the seventh to clinch a 5-4 victory and punch their ticket to state.
The Sabers started well. Junior starter Boomer Johnson worked around a lead-off walk and then helped his own cause in the bottom of the frame.
Senior Alex McAleer collected the game’s first hit with a one-out double and moved to third on a single by fellow senior Tucker Kinney before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Johnson to make it 1-0.
Marion, though, answered right back, using a double and a bunt single to plate a pair in the top of the second.
The Indians struck again in the third and then matched a Kinney run in the fourth — the senior scored on a throwing error — with one of their own in the fifth.
Central DeWitt was even better in the bottom of the inning.
Kaiden Muhl led off the frame with a single up the middle and was sacrificed over to second by Thein.
Muhl got even closer on a groundout before eventually scoring on a McAleer single. McAleer soon stole second to put himself in scoring position and that loomed large as Kinney slugged a double to right-center to knot things up at four.
Marion’s first opportunity to break the tie ended with a strikeout — courtesy of Thein, who took over for Johnson with two outs in the sixth — but made the most of its aggressiveness on the base paths and the two costly throwing errors to plate the deciding run in the seventh.
The Sabers put the tying run on base in the bottom of the seventh when John McConohy earned a two-out walk, but Marion wrapped things up with a final out.
Both teams had seven hits with seniors McAleer and Kinney combining for five of the Sabers in their final contests. McAleer had a pair of hits and scored twice. Kinney paced the squad with three hits and added a run of his own. Both players also drove in runs and slugged doubles.
Muhl and Thein had the other Sabers hits. Johnson and Thein, meanwhile, combined for seven strikeouts on the mound.