■ Timely plays pay off for AC Red in 8-4 win Sunday
Strikeouts were a problem for Aurora’s two Legion baseball teams Sunday afternoon.
In all, the two teams combined for 27 strikeouts as the Aurora Cooperative Red team picked up an 8-4 win over Pinnacle Bank White in the fourth game of the COVID Series.
With the win, the AC Red squad took a 3-1 lead in the local series.
But, as both coaches pointed out, the strikeout numbers were much too high on either side with 14 for AC Red and 13 for PB White.
“We were just missing the ball for whatever reason today,” PB White coach Jeremy Burgener said. “There wasn’t a lot of off-speed thrown today because no one had to. It sucks because all we did this week in practice was hit. We have to figure something out in practice.”
“Today was a bit sloppy. We weren’t as aggressive as we were in the past and that showed in the first couple innings,” AC Red coach Bodie Moeller said. “We did some things right overall, but we have stuff to work on.”
For the first time in the COVID Series, the opening two innings were completely scoreless across the board, although it didn’t seem like it would play out that way.
AC Red loaded the bases on the first three batters in the first, but couldn’t push a run across.
Brady Collingham doubled in the bottom of the first for PB White, but they couldn’t score either with two runners in scoring position.
Aurora Cooperative Red broke the game open in the third inning on a bevy of walks.
Once the bases were loaded with one out, Ryan Marlatt was hit by a pitch before Kyle Larson and Seth Stevens both walked in runs to take a 3-0 lead.
While Moeller had no problem with taking the lead, he was pushing for his players to show a bit more aggressiveness at the plate.
“Early on, it seemed like we were too busy looking for that perfect pitch,” Moeller said. “I like to be aggressive. If we’re walking, we’re not doing our job at the plate.”
AC Red extended the lead to 5-0 in the fourth, with both of its runs coming with two outs. Dylan Dubas singled to left to score one before Larson smashed a double that was just past the outstretched glove of Blaine Bonifas.
“The difference today was the Red team got a two-out hit and we had a two-out strikeout,” Burgener said. “That’s killer.”
PB White got onto the board in the bottom half of the fourth as Cam Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice, driving in Collingham.
Later in the inning, Bonifas scored on an error to trim the lead to 5-2.
A backbreaking play for PB White came in the fifth as Jayden Quandt grounded a ball back up the middle and not only reached first, but scored a pair of runs.
As those runs came across to score, Quandt made a heads-up play to take second as well.
“Quandt has been clutch this entire season,” Moeller said. “He always seems to be in the right place and comes up with a timely hit. If he keeps that up, he’ll be a heck of a player at Aurora.”
Burgener pointed out that the Pinnacle Bank White team was solid in the field for most of the game, but tiny mistakes here and there were magnified by Aurora Cooperative Red’s aggressiveness.
“We made a lot of good plays in the field,” Burgener said. “We just gave up too many free bases today. The fielding wasn’t terrible, but getting the ball to the right bag. Just small things that cost us.”
The lead was too much for PB White to overcome as they scored single runs in the fifth and seventh innings, but not nearly enough to get back into it.
For Aurora Cooperative Red, Quandt led the team with a pair of base hits while Larson totaled two RBIs.
On the mound, Chase Phillips, Quandt, Dubas and Jayson Havens put in the work, allowing five hits and two earned runs with six walks and 13 strikeouts.
For Pinnacle Bank White, Devin Otto totaled two base hits while Jones added two RBIs.
Pitching in the game were Layton Hohm, Cauy Walters, Max Wiarda, Trevor Moeller and Cayden Phillips. In all, the PB White team allowed six earned runs on five hits with 13 walks and 14 strikeouts.
Game five of the Aurora Legion COVID Series is slated for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to sit around the outfield fence as the main gate will be closed to the public.