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Cold bats cost Knights against Zebras

SWING: Southwood's Logan Barley fouls off a pitch during the Knights' game against Rochester on Wednesday.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

As Mother Nature tightened its grip in recent weeks, schedules across all spring sports constricted. For Southwood’s baseball team, a once challenging week turned into a daunting one.

Facing off with one of the top teams in the Three Rivers Conference (TRC) for the second time in three days, and with one more similar match-up still to come this week, the Knights bats never started as Southwood sputtered to an 8-3 loss at home to Rochester.

“Well, Rochester’s a good team,” Southwood head coach Warren Dailey said. “I think that they’re probably a better team than I gave them credit for before the game started. But it was apparent early on they were a good baseball team so hats off to them. Otherwise, we hit some balls hard at people. That’s the way the game goes sometimes.”

Southwood managed just four hits on the night and was limited to a single hit through the opening five innings. In the meantime, the Zebras used big third and fifth innings to jump ahead and never look back.

“I thought Carson (Rich) didn’t really have his A-plus stuff today but he was still good enough to get outs,” Dailey. “It just wasn’t the best we’ve seen out of him. You’re not going to throw your best every day. Tristin (Hayslett) did a good job of coming in and shutting it down but it was too little, too late at that point.”

The two sides played even across the first two innings before Rochester exploded in the third. An error allowed the first batter to reach base before a quartet of singles in succession plated a pair of runs. The third run of the inning scored on a fielder’s choice before Southwood escaped the frame with a flyout and a caught stealing.

The hosts were unable to mount any sort of rally and Rochester tacked on more runs in the fifth. After walks to Brady Perez and Kyle Reinartz, Zaine Young took the first pitch of his at-bat to deep right field to double the guests lead at 6-0. Rochester tacked on another run in the fifth and one in the sixth to increase its lead to 8-0.

Southwood’s only rally came in the bottom of the sixth inning as a walk from Mason Yentes, a single from Gabe Lloyd and an RBI ground from Logan Barley gave the hosts their first run. Cam Ball would double in Jackson Simons and Alex Farr would single in Ball but Carson Rich would be thrown out trying to go from first to third on Farr’s single, ending the rally.

It would be the only rally Southwood could muster on the night as Rochester kept the Knights hitless in the final frame to come away with a big win. For Dailey, a day of bad luck on both sides of the plate spelled doom for his side.

“Their leadoff hitter, he didn’t hit a ball out of the infield and got three hits,” he said. “It’s rough. It’s baseball. Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it goes against you.”

Rich took the loss on the mound, surrendering nine hits and seven runs, six earned, on two walks with five strikeouts. Tristin Hayslett pitched two innings of relief, giving up two hits and a run with two strikeouts and a walk.

For Southwood, after handing Manchester their first TRC loss of the season on Monday, the Knights lost control of their destiny on Wednesday. With Manchester’s loss to Maconaquah on Wednesday, the Zebras are the lone team with one conference loss on the season. Mother Nature intervened for the Knights, postponing Thursday's game against Wabash until next week. However, that outlook remains all the same for Dailey and his side.

“I know, to us, our team goals that are really important to us is conference, county and sectional,” he said. “So, I feel like, and like I told them, we are not out of the conference race at this point. We’re at 4-2. Before the game, we were in control of our own fate. Now, that’s no longer the case but we still have to go out and take care of business on a daily basis and be able to win.”