By Jason Hoekema
SPRINGFIELD – New Covenant is a tough school to go toe-to-toe with and despite the 4-0 loss to Springfield’s New Covenant Academy on Wednesday, April 24, the Bears fared better off in games in Thayer and the following week in Forsyth.
The Bears made six hits in 26 at-bats against the private school, but all were limited to singles while eight strikeouts kept the Bears in check.
Tom Emerich went 0 for 3 appearances, grounding out in the top of the first and popping balls into the air in the top of the third and fifth. Skyles, the regular number two in the order, picked up a hit in the first and made second on a fve-pitch walk earned by designated hitter Kayden Myers.
The Bears were not able to capitalize on the runner in scoring position since Caleb Johnson flied-out to right-center field and Carter Campbell whiffed in the Bears’ fifth plate appearance to close the top of the first.
The second fared no better for the Bears, who picked up three Ks with Zack Miller, Zach Mendel, and Andrew Dalton batting six-through-eight in the order.
The only Ava player to make it to the third bag was Myers, who picked up a lead-off single at the top of the fourth and made second on a passed ball. After tagging-up on a fly by Miller to right field, Myers made third but was stranded by Mendel, who whiffed to end the top of the fourth.
Dalton reached first on an error in the fifth but was put out on his way to second. A grounder to second by ninth batter Zack Richards accounted for the second out and Emerich flied-out to the pitcher.
Miller made first in the top of the seventh and made second after a follow-up single from Dalton, but both were stranded by Richards who flied-out to second to close-out the Bears’ offensive attempts.
Defensively the Bears held their own through two innings but allowed two runs and another two-runner scare in the bottom of the third. Luckily, two outs on fielder’s choices were followed by a strikeout on Nathan Butler to stop Covenant’s run gains at 2-0 going into the fourth.
With six hits on the board, New Covenant only made four runs and was the team with an error on the night while the Ava varsity squad appeared to play with a new-found second wind in the season after a slump involving several errors in several games in the past weeks.
Another two runs by New Covenant, and the game wrapped up, 4-0, making Ava’s overall record 10-4 with better-played ball games in their future.
THAYER – Despite the 18-5 blowout near the Missouri-Arkansas border, the Bears had five errors to remind them of some frustrations from earlier this season.
Emerich started the game with a foul taste after wearing the third pitch but was brought in by a line drive to left field from Johnson’s bat. Johnson was replaced by pinch runner Caleb Brown, who was able to bring in the second run for the Bears before Mendel flied-out to right field.
The Bears had an explosive top of the third with Spencer Skyles walked to first after getting ahead in the count and eyeing the 3-1 pitch for ball four. Johnson was also walked on a 3-1 pitch, as was Myers who juiced the bases on four-straight balls.
A wild pitch gave Skyles the opportunity to bring in the third run and runners advancing to open the first bag up for Carter Campbell… who walked on the full count. With bases loaded for a second time with no outs on the board, Zack Miller was the man of the hour with a single on a line drive to center field.
The liner was enough to earn Miller two RBIs on Johnson and Myers making the fourth and fifth runs for the Bears with no outs.
A grounder from Dalton earned him an RBI after Campbell was able to complete the diamond for the sixth run of the game.
Miller also scored on a single from Dalton, who scored on a tag-up following a wild pitch. Emerich wore another pitch for the team and scored on a double by Kayden Myers after Johnson was walked to first.
Carter Campbell hit a solid RBI double to clear the bases, leaving him alone in scoring position. Miller struckout looking at the sixth pitch to end a ten-run bomb by the Ava offense.
Moving forward to the sixth inning, the Bears kept putting-on the base-running pressure for another six runs, allowing Johnson to hit a season high of four laps in a single game.
Defensively the Bears were stunned by two wild pitches and an error leading to two runs by the Thayer offense. Dalton, Campbell, and Corey Heinlein pitched for a combined 10 strikeouts, but were tagged with four earned runs – one for Campbell and three for Heinlein.
The defense cleaned-up a bit after committing three errors in the first four innings, but another pair of mistakes nearly led to a potential five-run fifth inning for Thayer. Heinlein cut-off the three-run bleed after catching Alan Gorham looking to close the fifth.
With Thayer on their last prayer, an error allowed Tyler Orf to reach first but was put out on his way to second as Jesse White made first on a catcher’s interference call. Dalton picked up the last two strikeouts of the game with a whiff and a stare by the Thayer offense.