Things simply have not been going the VCHS baseball team’s way over the last five games.
That was never more evident than in the third inning of Tuesday’s contest at Altamont.
With runners on first and second and two out, the Vandals appeared to have emerged from a serious threat unscathed, as first basemen Jared Herker scooped a low throw from shortstop Dallas Gray to record the final out of the inning.
The base umpire didn’t agree, however, ruling that Herker had not secured the ball, allowing the run to score and extending the inning.
All heck broke lose after that. Altamont went on to score six unearned runs – four of which came on a grand slam by Adam Grobengieser – and the Indians cruised to an 8-1 victory.
The third-inning incident was just the latest of a series of blood-boiling moments for the Vandals, who saw their losing streak extended to five games.
Making matters all the more tense is the fact that three of those losses have been by just one run.
VCHS coach Luke Hohlt understands his team’s frustration. But in order for the Vandals to become the solid team he knows they can become, Hohlt says his team will have to start handling themselves better when things don’t go their way.
‘We have to do a better job of handling adversity, plain and simple,’ Hohlt said. ‘Any time an umpire has a tight strike zone, we’ve got to handle adversity there. If an umpire makes a call you don’t agree with, he’s not going to change it, you know – we’ve got to handle it.’
Hohlt also noted that the Vandals will have to start playing better defense, as well.
‘If the throw wasn’t off, there wouldn’t have been a controversial call to begin with,’ Hohlt said.
Not only have the Vandals committed 18 miscues during their losing streak, the errors have come in inopportune times, allowing 24 unearned runs to score.
That shaky defense, along with patient hitting by Altamont, proved to be the difference Tuesday, as the Indians walked eight times against VCHS starter Andy Hosick.
The free passes – along with all the unearned runs – masked a solid effort by the righty, who allowed just two earned runs on six hits.
‘If he gets ahead in the count, it’s a totally different ballgame, and he knows that,’ Hohlt said. ‘He just didn’t have that great of command, but he showed a little fight out there and threw the whole game for us.’
The Vandals, in sharp contrast to their counterparts, were not patient at the plate against Indians starter Brian Suckow. Suckow showed a propensity for wildness – hitting five VCHS batters on the day – but Vandalia failed to draw a single walk.
‘I think we could have shown more patience at the plate,’ Hohlt said. ‘When someone’s a little wild like that, you have to take advantage of it. We have good enough hitters to do that.’
Despite a frustrating day, and equally frustrating stretch of games, Hohlt has not lost faith in his team.
‘I’ve told the guys several times, we’re one step away from being a ballteam that can win some games,’ Hohlt said. ‘Right now we’re just not getting it done, whether it’s at the plate in clutch situations or in the field, making that one play to get us out of an inning.
‘We’ve just got to figure out, somehow, how to get there. We’re going to keep shuffling the lineup and keep working hard in practice. We’ll get there.’
Vandalia 000 001 0 – 1 5 2
Altamont 206 000 x – 8 6 1
WP – Suckow (7IP, 1ER, 8K, 0BB, 5HBP). LP – Hosick (6IP, 8R, 2ER, 6H, 4K, 8BB). Vandalia Top Hitters – Hosick 1-2 (BI), Thiele 1-3, Gray 1-2, Whightsil 1-3. Records – Altamont is 4-0, Vandalia is 2-5.
Centralia 6, Vandalia 5
It was a cruel case of dj vu for the Vandals.
Playing the Orphans for the second time in three days, Centralia edged VCHS by the identical score it did Saturday, doing so this time on its home field with an early rally.
Centralia plated four runs in the bottom of the second and never relinquished the lead, despite a valiant comeback attempt by the Vandals.
Thiele drove in a pair of runs in a three-run fifth that drew VCHS to within one run, but the Vandals could never get over the hump. Wasmuth finished 2-for-2, while Cory Bunker continued his hot hitting by going 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. The freshman had seven hits in his first 12 varsity at-bats.
‘He’s been kind of a sparkplug for us, stealing bases and taking advantage of other team’s mistakes,’ Hohlt said. ‘And he’s been hitting the ball well. He’s doing a nice job for us.’
Vandalia 100 130 0 – 5 7 2
Centralia 041 100 x – 6 8 0
WP – Muschik. LP – Wasmuth (6IP, 6R, 3ER, 8H, 5K, 4BB). Top hitters – Vandalia: Thiele 1-3 (2 BI), Wasmuth 2-2, Bunker 2-4 (BI, 2R).
Centralia 6, Vandalia 5
The Vandals suffered their second heartbreaking loss of the day, as Aaron Newcomb’s two-run single in the top of the seventh proved to be the difference.
Prior to Newcomb’s game-winning hit, Hosick completed a Vandalia comeback from an early 4-0 deficit with an RBI single that gave the Vandals a 5-4 lead in the fifth.
Thiele tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth with a two run single.
Herker drove in his sixth run of the day in the fourth, and the Vandals scored another run on an error during a two-run rally.
Hosick took the loss – despite giving up just three hits and a walk in four innings of relief of Gray – as Centralia pushed in a pair of unearned runs in the seventh.
Shaky defense plagued Vandalia for the third game in a row, as VCHS finished with six miscues.
Centralia 301 000 2 – 6 7 3
Vandalia 000 221 0 – 5 11 6
WP – Zelasko (2 IP, 1ER, 3H, 4K, 0BB, 2WP). LP – Hosick (4IP, 2R, 0ER, 3H, 1K, 1BB). Vandalia top hitters – Thiele 2-4 (2 BI), Bunker 2-3 (1R), Wasmuth 1-3, Pearson 1-3, Hosick 1-3 (BI), Freeman 1-3.
Freeburg 13, Vandalia 12
Freeburg forced extra innings with a five-run rally in the bottom of the seventh, and Josh Zinck’s RBI single in the bottom of the 10th ended a marathon contest.
Prior to the Midgets’ final-inning surge from a 12-7 deficit, the story of the day was Vandalia’s offensive explosion – which included a career-best 3-for-5, five-RBI day by Herker and a 3-for-5 performance by Bunker in his first varsity game.
Herker had RBI singles in a pair of VCHS three-run rallies in the sixth and seventh innings, as VCHS built a seemingly-comfortable 12-7 lead.
But a pair of errors fueled Freeburg’s fire in the seventh, and the Midgets wound up scoring seven unearned runs on four Vandal errors on the day.
Gray continued his hot hitting for the Vandals, going 3-for-6 with two runs and an RBI, while Brenden Wasmuth was 3-for-5 with three runs scored.
Vandalia 300 213 300 0 – 12 17 4
Freeburg 410 110 500 1 – 13 16 1
WP – Wobbe (2IP, 0R, 0H, 4K, 0BB). LP – Gray (4IP, 1R, 1ER, 4H, 4K, 1BB, 1WP). Vandalia top hitters – Wasmuth 3-5 (3R), Gray 3-6 (2R, BI), Herker 3-5 (1R, 5BI), Bunker 3-5 (1R, BI).
Last Wednesday’s Game
Breese Central 15,
Gray and Mitch Whightsil banged out two hits apiece, but it was the host Cougars’ day, as they handed the Vandals their first loss of the young season.
Vandalia jumped out to a 1-0 first-inning lead, but Central countered with 11 unanswered runs over the next three innings – including an eight-run third that blew the game open.
Errors plagued the Vandals throughout, as four miscues led to six unearned runs.
Gray finished 2-for-2, including a solo homer, a double and two runs scored. Whightsil was also 2-for-2, driving in VCHS’s other run.
Vandalia 100 10 – 2 4 4
B. Central 218 4x – 15 10 0
WP – Thole (5IP, 2ER, 4H, 0BB, 4K, 3HBP). LP – Wasmuth (2 1/3 IP, 9R, 3ER, 5H, 4K, 4BB, 1HBP). Top hitters – Vandalia: Gray 2-2 (2R, 2B, HR, BI), Whightsil 2-2 (BI).