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Vandals nearly victorious on senior day

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By Andrew Harner

VANDALIA – On a day to honor the team’s five seniors, the Vandals competed to the last at-bat, falling just a few inches short of a chance at victory.

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Senior Isaac Francis shot a line drive that was caught by Southwestern’s ranging shortstop to end the game and give the Birds a 3-2 South Central Conference victory.

“He’s been in the lineup a lot lately,” said coach Luke Hohlt after Francis played in just three of the first 12 games of the season. “He’s starting to hit the ball hard, and I am excited going into the postseason with him in the middle of the lineup.

“If they throw him a fastball, he’ll hit it hard, and he was just three or four inches from having a fourth hit today.”

A single in the seventh would have driven home the tying run, and though a win wasn’t to be, the game was still a good springboard for the Vandals as they prepared for regional action.

On Tuesday, the Vandals defeated Carlinville, 6-5, in the regional quarterfinals.

And while the seniors didn't win their final regular-season home game, showing the determination to fight until the final out against a team with a winning record is a positive sign for the group, Hohlt said.

“Those guys have done a good job for us this year, even though only one has been a four-year player,” he said. “They work hard every day, and it’s paying off for them.”

The Vandals (4-14, 1-7 SCC) went to the bottom of the seventh inning down by two runs, and made two outs in the first three batters, leaving senior Leyton Godoyo on first base following a fielder’s choice.

Sophomores Collin Nestleroad and Jake Bowen followed with singles to bring in Godoyo and leave two runners on for Francis.

Francis wasted no time getting a good swing, shooting the second pitch of his at-bat toward left field, but the shortstop ranged to his left to catch the liner for the final out.

Vandalia got on the board in the third, with Godoyo leading off the inning with a double – one of four in the game for the Vandals – and he scored on a fielder’s choice by Bowen, who had both of Vandalia’s RBI.

With at least one hit in every inning, the Vandals had opportunities to score more runs, but left nine runners on base, including five in scoring position.

“We hit the ball hard up and down the lineup, so if one guy had been on base in a different situation, this game is different,” Hohlt said.

Southwestern also squandered plenty of opportunities, also leaving nine runners on base, with seven of them being in scoring position.

“We got out of some pretty good-sized jams,” Hohlt said, “and Zach Schaal was a big part of that.”

The sophomore ace pitched a complete game, striking out five and pitching his way out of a bases-loaded situation in the fourth inning.

An error loaded the bases with one out, but Schaal struck out the next batter and induced a weaker grounder to first base to retire the Birds.

“It’s a given that when your team is making plays and your team is hitting the ball, you have a comfortable feeling on the mound,” Hohlt said.

Southwestern scored an unearned run in the first inning, and added two more on three hits in the fifth.

Wednesday, May 8
Southwestern 3
Vandalia 2
S: 1-0-0-0-2-0-0—3-7-2
V: 0-0-1-0-0-0-1—2-10-3
WP: Heinman; 7 IP, 1K
LP: Schaal (2-3); 7 IP, 5 K
Vandals: Francis, 3-for-4, 2B; Nestleroad, 2-for-3, sac bunt; Bowen, 1-for-4, 2 RBI; Godoyo, 1-for-4, 2B. 2 runs; Michael Wells, 1-for-3, 2B; Carson Smith, 1-for-3, 2B; Aaron Harter, 1-for-3.
Record: 4-14 (1-7 SCC)