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PATOKA – In the biggest game on both teams’ Egyptian-Illini Conference schedule, offense was hard to come by for Patoka and St. Elmo, as each team’s ace took the hill last Thursday.
St. Elmo senior Connor Beasley and Patoka junior Clinton Hood combined for 17 strikeouts, but it was the Eagles who took advantage of its limited offensive opportunities to take a 3-2 win and improve to 3-0 in conference play.
“This was a huge one,” said St. Elmo coach Ryan Beccue. “In my mind, Patoka was the team to beat with the guys they had coming back, so I’m thrilled to get this win.”
The game ended in controversy, however, as St. Elmo’s freshman third baseman Noah Flowers made a bare-handed grab on Patoka senior Quinn Wadkins’ grounder, but his throw to first base appeared to pull senior Ben Davis off the bag.
Wadkins was called out, but an appeal could not be awarded, because the home plate umpire’s duty was watching the runner advancing to second base.
Had Wadkins been safe, it would have put speedy freshman Shane Cain in scoring position for the heart of Patoka’s order, but coach Joe Eddy said that if the Warriors had produced some offense in the middle innings, the play wouldn’t have even mattered.
“We hit in the first inning, but didn’t hit again until the seventh inning,” he said. “Our lack of offense put us in that position.”
In the first inning, Patoka’s offense played textbook baseball in scoring two runs, and it looked as if the Warriors would be on the way to another game near their season average of 8.5 runs.
After St. Elmo junior Levi Maxey singled to open the game and eventually scored on an error, Wadkins got the Warrior offense started by beating out an infield single to open the bottom of the first.
Senior Jake Orrell followed with a walk. Both runners then advanced on a sacrifice bunt from junior Johnnie Clift, and senior Mark Rogers tied the game on a sacrifice fly to center.
Orrell would score on Hood’s two-out single to left.
“You can’t really get any better than that,” Eddy said. “It just didn’t happen in the next six innings.”
St. Elmo (4-3, 3-0 EIC) added a run in the third, with Maxey again leading off the inning with a single, and he moved to second on an error during the play.
After being sacrificed to third on Beasley’s flyout, Maxey stole home when Patoka’s reaction time on a double-steal was slow.
“It doesn’t matter how you score runs,” Beccue said. “It doesn’t matter who outhits who or who strikes out more guys, it’s who scores the most runs.”
Meanwhile, Beasley (3-1) settled himself down on the mound after allowing four base runners in the first two innings.
In the final five innings of the game, he struck out nine batters and didn’t allow a runner to get into scoring position, while putting on base just four additional runners for Patoka (7-2, 2-1 EIC).
“Connor has to understand that he does not need to get down on himself, which he does too fast sometimes,” Beccue said. “When he keeps his head up, he’s as good as there is, and he showed that the rest of the game.
“He’s a senior now, and he needs to realize that he needs to be a leader, and keep his emotions in check.”
The Eagles gave Beasley the win in the sixth inning, with Dalton Parks walking to open the frame and coming around to score on a fielder’s choice from Nick Bauer.
“You never want to lose, but it’s good to be in a close game to see how one play or mental lapse can affect a team,” Eddy said. “Hopefully, this will get us geared up for next week.”
Thursday, Sept. 6
St. Elmo 3
WP: Beasley (3-1); 7 IP, 10 K, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 1 HBP
LP: Hood (2-1); 7 IP, 7 K, 3 R, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB
Eagles: L. Maxey, 2-for-4, 2 runs, SB; Malachi Maxey, 2-for-3; Bauer, RBI, SB; Parks, run, 2 BB; Beasley, sac fly, SB.
Record: 4-3 (3-0 EIC)
Warriors: Wadkins, 2-for-4, run, SB; Orrell, 1-for-2, run, BB; Hood, 1-for-2, RBI, BB; Rogers, sac fly, RBI; Clift, sac bunt; Ryan Miller, HBP.
Record: 7-2 (2-1 EIC)