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MULBERRY GROVE – After several of the early innings of Monday’s regional tournament game, Patoka coaches reminded their players that there was still a lot of game left to make up their deficit.
It didn’t seem like it was working, but then a few breaks went Patoka’s way in the fifth inning, leading to a six-run frame that helped propel the Warriors to a 7-5 win against Mulberry Grove.
“I don’t know if they believed (what we were saying), but we are one of those teams where if a couple of things go good or bad, it snowballs,” said coach Joey Eddy. “Once we got a couple of guys on and they made a mistake, we believed.”
Trailing 4-0, Patoka’s Seth Allen opened the top of the fifth inning by reaching on an error, and senior Jacob Jenkins followed with a walk.
Junior Quinn Wadkins – who had struggled at the plate at times in the regular season – came through with a double to left field to bring home Patoka’s first run of the game.
Clinton Hood followed by reaching on an error before Johnnie Clift and Brandon Budds both struck out.
They are the top two hitters for the fifth-seeded Warriors, but went 0-for-8 in the game, including six at-bats with runners in scoring position.
By getting the win despite that, Eddy believes the Warriors could be one or two hits away from an upset later in the week.
“If those guys get just a couple of base hits, we can definitely knock off somebody,” he said.
Another error was committed following the two strikeouts, and Jake Orrell delivered an RBI single to tie the game at four.
Sophomore Ryan Miller then singled to right to give the Warriors a 6-4 lead, and Jenkins later walked and scored on an error in the sixth.
Following the six-run fifth, Clift stifled Mulberry Grove’s hitters, ending the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings by throwing just 12 pitches.
“He was pumping strikes and keeping our defense on its toes,” Eddy said. “We need that, because when we start walking people, that’s when we start making errors.”
Walks didn’t have much to do with the Aces’ early scoring, however, as No. 5 Mulberry Grove used three hits and an error to get on the board in the second.
Freshman Alex Goodin led off by hitting a flyball to left field, which was mishandled, and Jesse Sloan followed with an RBI double. Dalton Crisman then had a single to bring in Sloan.
A single from senior Kyle Bloemker and a triple from Goodin added another run in the third, and Crisman stole home in the fourth when Patoka focused too much on picking off a runner between first and second.
Goodin was also locked in from the mound, striking out three and allowing no hits through the first four innings.
“I said, ‘It’s yours if you want it,’” said Aces coach Cody Hawkins. “He said, ‘All right.’ He came out on fire, and then he didn’t get flustered (at the errors).”
Mulberry Grove threatened again in the seventh, with Kaiah Miller leading off the inning with a single.
Nate Ketchem then hit a sharp grounder back to the mound, but Clift decided against going for the double play and got the safe out at first base.
“We’ve told them the situation all year, but they didn’t get excited today,” Eddy said. “Earlier in the year, Johnnie might have tried to turn that double play.”
Senior Jacob Rickman walked, and Miller scored on a fielder’s choice from Bloemker. Goodin hit a deep fly ball that ended the game, leaving Patoka with a game against top-seeded Nokomis on Wednesday.
And Eddy had no problem with that.
“It’s a long, upsetting bus ride if you don’t win this game,” Eddy said. “Especially when you’re already upset to come here to play them after you beat them (during the season, 7-3, on April 9).”
Mulberry Grove 5
WP: Clift; 7 IP, 8 K, 5 R, 4 ER, 7 H, 3 BB
LP: Goodin; 5 IP, 5 K, 6 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 2 HBP
Warriors: Wadkins, 2-for-3, 2B, RBI, run, 2 SB; Orrell, 1-for-4, RBI, run; Miller, 1-for-2, 2 RBI; Jenkins, 3 BB, 2 runs; Hood, run, 2 SB; Mark Rogers, run; Allen, run.
Aces: Miller, 3-for-4, run; Goodin, 1-for-4, 3B, RBI, run; Sloan, 1-for-3, 2B, RBI, run; Crisman, 1-for-2, RBI, run, 2 SB; Bloemker, 1-for-4, RBI, run; Ethan Thomas, SB.