With three consecutive losses and a blown five-run lead in Tuesday’s nightcap against Eisenhower, the meat of Kapaun Mount Carmel’s baseball schedule started to have a rancid taste.
But with Matthew Shearrer’s timely hit and pitcher Joe Lienhard making the most of a second chance in extra innings, the Crusaders salvaged a doubleheader split.
Shearrer’s double down the left-field line with one out in the top of the eighth scored Nick Nece from second and gave Kapaun a 6-5 victory over Eisenhower in the second game of the non-league matchup. Eisenhower, No. 4 in the Class 5A coaches’ rankings, rallied from a three-run deficit to win the opener 5-3.
Kapaun, No. 10 in 5A, avoided back-to-back doubleheader losses as Lienhard retired Eisenhower (8-2) in order in the eighth after surrendering two runs in the bottom of the seventh. The junior right-hander threw 127 pitches, but looked rejuvenated after Shearrer’s second hit of the game helped Kapaun (6-4) regain the lead.
“Those really get you going,” said Lienhard, who struck out seven. “I said, ‘Hey, if we score here, I want another one.’”
Eisenhower used its talented starting pitching duo of sophomore Braden Minor and senior Sam Hersh in the doubleheader. In the opener, Minor sailed through three innings before Kapaun’s top of the order fueled a three-run fourth. It was all Minor surrendered, however, as he finished the six-hitter with 11 strikeouts.
“Braden and Sam are always going to do a great job for us,” Eisenhower coach Tom Campa said. “We’ve just got to make sure we get timely hitting in our situations when they occur and manufacture runs.”
The Tigers accomplished that in the opener. Catcher Dalton Dinkel looped a two-run single to left in the bottom of the fifth that tied the score at 3.
Eisenhower followed with a one-out rally in the sixth to produce the winning runs. After Kapaun reliever Nick Degenhardt hit Will Kuns with a pitch, Brett Huelsmann ripped a double to the left-field wall to put runners at second and third. Then Eisenhower’s No. 9 hitter, right fielder Dustin Marx, capped a 3-for-3 game by chopping a double past third to score both runs.
Minor sealed the victory in the top of the seventh, striking out Christian Oatsdean and Alan Clark to end the game.
Kapaun rebounded in the second game, tagging Hersh for five runs on five hits in the top of the second to grab the lead. The key hit was a two-run, two-out single by Daniel Meitzner that took a big hop over Tigers second baseman Kirby Quinn.
But after Hersh escaped the 38-pitch inning, he set the stage for another Eisenhower comeback by retiring 10 consecutive Kapaun batters. The Crusaders got just one runner in scoring position from the third through sixth innings.
“The thing that I love is that we’re battling,” Kapaun coach Steve Lienhard said. “I just wish we could get over the hump and go after things more – not sit back and wait for things to happen, but going out and making things happen.”
After scoring three in the third to pull within 5-3, Eisenhower forced extra innings after Joe Lienhard walked Huelsmann and Marx to lead off the seventh. Tigers center fielder Nathan Brisco drove in a run on a grounder to short, and Dinkel tied the score with a sacrifice fly.
With a make-up doubleheader looming Friday against No. 3 Heights, Kapaun responded to move forward with its first victory since sweeping East on April 4.
“We’ve come into a stretch of about six games where we knew they were going to be tough,” Joe Lienhard said. “We knew we’d really have to focus and bear down.”
Eisenhower 5, Kapaun 3
|Kapaun||000||300||0||—||3 6 2|
|Eisenhower||000||032||x||—||5 8 0|
W — Minor. L — Degenhardt
Kapaun 6, Eisenhower 5
|Kapaun||050||000||01||—||6 11 2|
|Eisenhower||003||000||20||—||5 7 0|
W — Lienhard. L — Kuns