It may have taken South Tama's baseball team a few innings to get on top of its game Friday evening, but once it did, the home contest was over quickly.
Through four and a half innings, the Trojans trailed South Hardin 4-3. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Trojans' bats came alive. They scored 11 runs in two innings to run-rule the Tigers, 14-4. The Trojans improved to 5-4, while the Tigers fell to 1-5.
"We got off to a slow start," head coach Seth Koch said. "You could tell we got back late last night from Prairie City Monroe. We must have slept in late or overslept, because we weren't in it early. Thank goodness Tank (Keckler) was in it from the start."
In the fifth inning, Kolton Smith led off the inning with a walk. Jacob Clark hit a single before Ian Slagle was walked, loading the bases. Grant Koch capitalized with a three-run double that cleared the bases and gave STC a 6-4 lead.
The rest of the Trojans fed off of the momentum. Noah Bearden hit Koch home with the next at-bat. Bearden scored on a sacrifice fly to right field from Sam Kuhter. STC finished the inning, leading 8-4.
"We juggled the lineup a bit," Koch said. "We thought we struggled hitting the ball on Tuesday night. We bumped Kolton up to the leadoff spot, because we figured if we get him on base, it's automatically a double with his speed. We found out teams know who he is and they've started pitching around him. We moved Chase down to the third spot and put Ian Slagle in the clean-up spot. We rotated things around a bit and fortunately, we got the job done."
South Tama's hot bats continued in the sixth inning after it faced just three South Hardin batters. Once again, Smith and Clark reached base with a walk and single. Chase Schuett hit Smith home with an RBI single. Slagle was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Koch and Kuhter were both walked, scoring Clark and Schuett, while keeping the bases loaded.
Kaleb Davenport came up to the plate with two outs and hit a three-run double. His three RBIs, which scored Slagle, Koch and Kuhter, ended the game with the 10-run rule.
"The big hit came in the fifth," Koch said. "They intentionally walk Ian Slagle to load the bases and we're behind 4-3. Grant hits a double over the left fielder's head to the wall and clears the bases. All of a sudden, it goes from a 4-3 deficit to us being ahead 6-4. The floodgates opened and the next thing we know, we're ahead 10-4. We kept it going in the sixth. We loaded the bases again and we get a passed ball to score a run. Kaleb Davenport ends it with a double in the gap to score two."
South Hardin scored a run in the third inning, closing the gap to 2-1 with STC leading. The Tigers added one more in the fourth and two runs in the fifth inning, before the Trojans' offense came alive and ended the game.
"Tank went out and threw four and two-third strong innings," Koch said. "He gave up three runs, but only one of those was earned. We kicked the ball around again, like we've done lately. We were able to ride the storm out and I give a lot of credit to Tank for pitching a whale of ballgame."
Koch and the Trojans were also happy to end the game early. The Tigers had enough players for just a varsity game, which was moved up to a 5:30 p.m. start, so the game finished before it was originally scheduled to start.
"It's nice to be able to save arms and get a 'W'," Koch said. "We started and ended the week with a win. That's nice to do in this conference."
On Thursday, the Trojans played at Prairie City Monroe and played even through two innings. However, one bad inning doomed the Trojans. PCM (12-2) won the game 7-1.
"It was a good ballgame through two innings," Koch said. "It's tied 0-0 through three and then we start kicking the ball around a bit. We had freshman Dalton Doyle making his first start on the mound. Dalton was throwing well, clicking along doing what he's supposed to do. Then we have a couple errors at third and we don't catch a ball at first. Against a good team like PCM, they're going to make you pay for that and they did. They get two unearned runs in the fourth and five unearned in the fifth. All of a sudden we're down 7-0. I felt bad for Dalton. He pitched well enough to win.
"You have to give PCM some credit," he added. "They pitched extremely well. We only had two hits. Chase Schuett led the game off with a hit. Then Kolton gets a hit to drive in a run in the top of the seventh. Those were our only two hits."
South Tama plays West Marshall at home on Tuesday. The Trojans will then play at Grinnell on Thursday and at Grundy Center on Friday.