Cardington was able to hold on after a fast start to top Mount Gilead 7-5 in a road KMAC baseball game, allowing the Pirates to sweep the season series with their rival.
In earning the win, Cardington jumped out to an early lead with a three-run first inning, with all the damage done with two outs.
After recording a pair of quick outs, MG starter Carter Kennon gave up a single to Dillon Minturn, who would steal second and then take third when a pitch got past the Indian catcher. Nate Hickman then drove him in with a single.
Another errant pitch moved Hickman to second and an Indian error on a Merek McClure grounder brought him home for the team’s second run. A walk to Caden Dewitt put runners on first and second and two more pitches that got away from the catcher moved McClure to third and then home before Mount Gilead got out of the inning.
“Early on, giving up those three runs and those early errors just bit us,” said MG coach Mark Kennon. “They had a couple things go their way and we didn’t when we had opportunities. Whether they were wild pitches or passed balls, they were costly. They put runners in scoring position and they got a couple key hits.”
After Minturn worked around a pair of baserunners in the bottom of the inning, Cardington added a fourth score to their tally in the second inning. Kaiden Beach opened with a single and was sacrificed to second by Journey Williamson. Another errant pitch moved him to third and A.J. Hall then brought him home with a hit.
Cardington coach Ryan Goetzman noted that his team’s aggressiveness on the base paths paid off, with the team mustering four steals and taking a number of extra bases on Indian miscues.
“One thing I preach is to sometimes let them be on their own,” he said. “We talk about opportunities to run and when they should and shouldn’t and they’ve started to buy into it.”
It would stay that way until the bottom of the third inning, when the Indians got on the board. Carson VanHoose led off with a single and moved to second on a one-out hit by Kennon. After a passed ball advanced both runners, they would then get brought home by a Nick Garvey single to cut the Pirate lead in half.
“The boys played well,” said Goetzman. “Rivalry games are always close and they gave us a whale of a game. Carter’s good on the mound. These guys are gritty and do a good job of working hard for each other. They’re scrappy.”
In the top of the fifth, the Pirates got a run when a McClure groundout brought in Hall. However, their three-run lead would turn into a 5-4 score by the end of the inning. After VanHoose and Paul Butterman led off the inning with back-to-back hits, Garvey had a one-out grounder that resulted in an errant throw to first, scoring both runners.
Hickman would give his team some breathing room in the top of the seventh, though. After Kennon hit Minturn with a pitch, he gave way to Butterman on the mound and the Pirate senior placed one of his offerings over the center field fence for a two-run blast.
Mount Gilead would attempt to rally in their half of the final inning. Jonny Martinez led off by reaching via a Pirate error. With one out, Butterman was hit by a pitch and Kennon reached on an error to load the bases. Garvey followed with a run-scoring single to make it a two-run game with the bases still loaded and only one out.
However, Minturn would get the next two batters out to preserve the win — something that didn’t surprise his coach.
“He’s given us a chance to win every time out,” said Goetzman. “He went toe-to-toe with Fredericktown and beat Northmor earlier in the season. That’s who he is — the guy who epitomizes us as a team.”
For Mount Gilead, Kennon noted that his team simply has struggled to get over the hump in close games this year.
“It’s one of those years,” he said. “We lost to East Knox by one, Danville by one and to Cardington here by two. I still say that in the tournament, we’re a dangerous team because of our schedule. Our league is tough.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS