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Sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s were a far cry from the conditions that had canceled six Vandalia baseball games in the nine days before the Vandals met Christ Our Rock Lutheran on Friday.
But on a field that still had some wet spots, the Vandals punched out five runs and survived a late surge by the Silver Stallions against their backup defense to beat Christ Our Rock, 5-3, after rain had soaked the area for almost a week.
“It felt great,” said coach Luke Hohlt of playing a game. “We needed to play – bad. This is what it’s supposed to be – dry air, great day and sunshine.
“Baseball is not meant to be practiced in the gym or in the sopping wet.”
Senior Matt Hoffman manufactured the winning runs in the fifth inning, driving home junior Ian Murrell on a sacrifice fly. Junior Trevor Montgomery also scored on the play after an error by Christ Our Rock’s defense.
With backups scattered around the field in the top of the seventh, the Vandals allowed the Silver Stallions to score three times with two outs. Three passed balls, two errors, one wild pitch and one hit batsman allowed all the runs to be scored without a hit.
“We didn’t finish like we wanted to, but I was still pleased,” Hohlt said. “I’m not as frustrated about that as I am that we didn’t come out fired up. We are way better than (scoring just) five runs against them.”
Hohlt said some of the sluggish offense may have come because no player had seen live pitching in a week and a half, and for some players, it had been almost two weeks.
Junior Dathan Berning reached on an error in Vandalia’s first at-bat, and he scored on Mongomery’s single to right.
Sophomore Leyton Godoyo singled and stole second base in the next frame, and he crossed the plate on senior Matt Grove’s single to right. Grove would have scored on the next at-bat, but Christ Our Rock’s center fielder made a running catch on a hard-hit ball to end the inning.
Godoyo later had an RBI single in the fourth, before the Vandals added the two runs in the fifth.
From the mound, Vandalia used four different pitchers, with Hohlt actually wanting six different players to pitch during the game.
Murrell opened the game with a strong two innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. The next two innings were thrown by junior Nick Metzger, who allowed one hit and struck out two.
Hoffman used his curveball to strike out four batters in his two innings of work, and Montgomery pitched the top of the seventh.
In the total, the Vandals allowed six hits and struck out 12. Hoffman earned the win.
“I wanted a few other guys (Godoyo and Berning) to throw, and I wanted to try to get everybody in today,” Hohlt said. “We didn’t have the lead we needed to get the full substitution of everybody.”
One reserve who did shine was freshman Andrew Dossett.
He led off the sixth inning and dropped a bunt up the third base line on the first pitch, easily reaching first for a single.
“For a freshman who hasn’t played a lot of ball, he’s picked up quite a bit,” Hohlt said. “I’m really excited about that young man’s future.
“That’s a great effort. That bunt doesn’t get any better at any level.”
He would be put out on a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat, but plays such as his bunt can spark a rally, and the Vandals need to continue capitalizing on momentum-builders, Hohlt said.
He believes they will, and that’s a good thing, because the Vandals would have to play three games in the regional tournament to reach the championship game.
“I’m really excited for the two weeks ahead,” Hohlt said. “We have the skill, and I hope we have the momentum and mentality to finish this thing.”
Vandalia at Litchfield
A 10-run fourth inning for Litchfield doomed the Vandals during an 11-1 loss on Tuesday.
The Vandals scraped out just two hits in the game, one for each Berning and Montgomery.
On Friday, the Vandals will play at home against Litchfield at 4 p.m., and then follow with a game against Pana.
Vandalia vs. Greenville
On Monday, the Vandals lost to Greenville, 4-2.
There were only a combined six hits in the game, with both teams earning three.
Berning, Montgomery and Metzger had Vandalia's.
Murrell took the loss, tossing a complete game and allowing one earned run, while striking out five.
Thirteen Vandals struck out on offense, and the defense committed four errors.