By Darvin Graham
Electric hitting and a solid defensive performance brought the Trojans their fourth win in five days last week. On Friday June 20 STC squared off against their cross-county rivals, the North Tama Redhawks. Coming into the matchup the Redhawks held a 7-8 record and a third place standing in their Iowa Star South Conference. The Trojans, also at 7-8, were looking for their fourth win of the week that would push their record to .500 as they claw their way back into the top of the NICL West. This is only the second time the two teams have met in the past four years, with STC claiming an 11-5 win at home against the Redhawks in 2012.
Sophomore Colson Frakes made his third start on the mound for the Trojans. Frakes, who also serves as a relief pitcher, came into Friday's start with a record of 1-1. Starting for the Redhawks was freshman Cameron Hoeg. Thus far, Hoeg appears to be the number two starting pitcher for North Tama behind junior Brody Hulme.
Colson Frakes throws his final pitch in the game against North Tama on Friday June 20 for a strike out.
Chronicle Photo/Allison Graham
North Tama wasted no time at the plate Friday and got their bats going early in the first inning. After leadoff hitter Cael Kopriva was hit by a pitch, Caden Stuart and Hulme both hit singles to load the bases and turn up the pressure on the Trojans. Batting cleanup, third baseman Brandon Kaufman poked a ground ball single straight up the middle that had just enough on it to bring around Kopriva for the first Redhawk run. With the bases still loaded, starting pitcher Hoeg hit a fly ball that was caught by right fielder Colton Vest, but not before Stuart crossed home plate for the second run of the inning. Frakes locked down the rest of the inning as he struck out first baseman Ben Panfil and forced left fielder Joe Early into a fly out to end the inning.
Through the next inning and a half neither team was able to get much offense going as the hard throwing Hoeg continued to stifle the Trojan bats. Fast forward to the bottom of the third. North Tama forced two quick outs before Hoeg walked Frakes, which brought up shortstop Grant Koch. With the count at 2-2 Hoeg dealt a third strike that would have ended the inning but Hulme (catcher) dropped the pitch and overthrew to first base which allowed Riley Davenport (courtesy running for Frakes) to advance to second and Koch to reach first safely. A little bit of luck and a sliver of light would be all the Trojans needed to swing the momentum of the game and begin to take control. Third baseman Dalton Doyle and center fielder Cody Kellogg both came through with clutch singles that each scored a run, quickly erasing the Redhawk's two run lead. The third inning rally was far from over though as designated hitter Mitch Thede took a walk to load the bases for second baseman Blake Keller. After falling behind in the count with two foul balls, Keller connected on Hoeg's third pitch for what would arguably be the biggest hit of his young career. A well placed; hard hit line drive into center brought both Doyle and Kellogg in to score, putting the Trojans up 4-2. After a four run third inning, the Trojans were fired up and would keep their foot on the gas the rest of the way.
Despite a rocky first inning, Frakes guided the Trojans defense well as he allowed the Redhawks only one additional hit through the remaining four innings. Head coach Seth Koch praised the efforts of his starting pitcher saying, "An outstanding pitching performance for Colson Frakes. After a few struggles in the first inning and some shaky defense he really found a rhythm and pitched his best game of the season."
In the bottom of the fourth inning the Trojans led off with the top of their order, and would pick things up right where they left off. With two quick outs to begin the inning the Trojans again looked to Grant Koch to jump-start the offense. Koch delivered with a double into left field. Doyle took a walk to put runners on first and second for Kellogg. In almost identical fashion to Keller's at-bat in the third inning, Kellogg blasted a two out, two run triple that scored Koch and Doyle. The Trojans extended their lead to four runs and it began to look like they might run away with the game.
Koch was very pleased with his team's performance at the plate on Friday noting, "For the night we scored six runs after two outs in an inning. That is something we haven't done this season, to come up with the big two out hit. Tonight we did it several times and I think that shows we are starting to mature mentally."
The middle of the Trojan order was not done however as things came together for another couple of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. With his first two pitches of the inning Hoeg, who the Trojans had sufficiently rattled at this point in the game, hit both Doyle and Kellogg to put two runners on base. Thede took the first out of the inning with a ground out that advanced Doyle to third and Kellogg to second. Keller then came through with another huge hit as he took Hoeg's first pitch deep into left center field for a two RBI double. Hoeg and the Redhawks got out of the inning with two quick outs, but not before conceding another pair of runs that put them in a six run hole with only one inning to go.
As he had done all game, Frakes remained poised on the mound as he and the Trojan defense shut the door on the Redhawks in the top of the seventh. North Tama tried to rally late by getting two runners on base but Hoeg grounded out to second for the last out of the game. The final score of Friday's matchup was 8-2, Trojans.
Though several Trojans came through with key moments in Friday's victory, the top performance would have to go to Blake Keller as he put in his best overall game of the season, both at the plate and on the field. Koch was thrilled with the work of his second baseman stating, "Tonight was a break out game for Blake Keller. Blake has been real solid defensively for us and tonight he came though at the plate going, 3 for 3 with 4 RBIs in real clutch situations. Two of his hits came with two outs. I couldn't be happier for the kid tonight as all his hard work finally paid off."