Raiders toil extra for long-awaited winApril 19, 2013
By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer
FERDINAND — Though not officially carrying the title of historian, Southridge baseball coach Brad Wibbeler managed a suitable response when asked to name the year when the Raiders last beat Forest Park.
“It’s been way too long,” Wibbeler said with a smile.
The Raiders must wait no longer.
Despite squandering a pair of leads, Southridge willed its way to a nine-inning 7-5 triumph against its county and Pocket Athletic Conference rival Friday night in Ferdinand for the first time since 2002.
“That was my first year of coaching,” the jovial coach reflected.
The Rangers had strung together 10 straight victories over their Huntingburg adversary, including a 6-5 victory in extras last season, preceded by a four-year stretch in which they outscored the Raiders 70-27.
Though technically standing as just another regular-season win, the result exudes an undeniably different vide, Wibbeler said.
“It means a lot,” he said before pausing. “Because there’s been a lot of tough games in the last 10, 11 years. And we’ve had our chances. And tonight, too, we almost let it get away from us. And we had our chances that we didn’t take advantage of, but we did there at the end.”
The Rangers leveled the score at 5 with a run in the seventh inning, but following a scoreless eighth, the Raiders (5-5, 1-1) wasted no time launching their final surge.
After flying out to Lance Buechler in centerfield his first two at-bats and striking out the following two, Connor Craig led off the inning with a double.
A clutch hit delivered at an opportune time.
“He had been struggling a little bit,” Wibbeler said of his sophomore leadoff man. “And that was just big for him, because he’s the guy we need, in that role, to step up. He did that.”
Ranger reliever Adam Braunecker then induced a flyout that held Craig at second and proceeded to intentionally walk Nathan Tretter, who had belted an RBI double in the third inning. The walk brought Cody Moesner to the plate.
Despite Tretter being given the free pass to occupy a vacant bag, Moesner took exception to the decision as he entered the batter’s box. He saw one pitch. It happened to be to his liking.
“After they walked Tretter, it made me kind of mad because they kind of told me they’d rather face me instead of him. And that first pitch, I don’t know if it was a fastball or what it was, but it was a meatball right down the middle,” recalled Moesner, who’s been fluttering around .500 from the plate this season. “And they always say, the first pitch of the at-bat is probably the best pitch you’ll see. And that’s usually my philosophy when I step to the plate. If that first pitch is a strike, you better be swinging.”
Moesner drummed the offering to the wall in left-center field. After some initial hesitation, Craig darted toward third base with Tretter scurrying behind him in close pursuit. Yet once the speedy Craig rounded third, blazing the final 90 feet proved no contest.
Including Craig, three Raiders reached base to lead off innings. All three eventually scored.
After Southridge added an insurance run on a Jacob Brewer sacrifice fly, Luke Stetter closed the door in the bottom half of the inning to cement the win and terminate the 11-year drought.
After pitching four innings against Paoli on Monday, Stetter wove together seven in relief for the Raiders after starter Chad O’Bryan was chased from the game with no outs in the third.
“I knew I might pitch, but I didn’t expect seven innings,” Stetter admitted.
The extra workload didn’t seem to bother the sophomore. After allowing an RBI single to Alec Hassfurther (3-for-5, RBI) upon entering the contest with the bases loaded, Stetter conceded just one run on six hits while fanning a trio of Rangers.
As for O’Bryan’s counterpart, Ben Wendholt delivered a steady 52â„3-inning performance that was cruelly tainted by unrelenting Raider bats.
Save for the Raiders’ two-run second innings, the three other scores Wendholt allowed all came with two outs. What’s more, the two baserunners who eventually etched runs in the third and sixth inning each started two-out rallies with the bases empty.
When they need fortuitous at-bats, the Raiders got them.
After Stetter (2-for-5, RBI) laced a two-out single on an 0-2 pitch to resuscitate Southridge’s third inning, Tretter roped his two-bagger to push the visitors ahead 3-1. Later, with the contest knotted at 4 in the sixth, Ben Weber followed Dillon Ramsey’s walk by belting a double that short-hopped the left-field fence, plating Ramsey. It was the last batter Wendholt faced.
Yet for almost every Raider charge, the Rangers summoned a response. Only problem was, the answer was oftentimes abrupt and left more to be desired, Ranger coach Jarred Howard said.
“We did a good job of coming back, and our guys got some key hits, but whenever we get an opportunity to really score runs when we need to score ’em,” Howard said before discontinuing the thought.
Case in point: the Rangers’ third inning. It’s not often a three-run frame carries a tone of inadequacy, but after Forest Park mustered four singles and a walk — which ushered home the three runs — before recording an out, three straight outs left runners stranded at every base.
Jared Wilgus (2-for-5) and Bryan Hurst sparked the Ranger seventh with back-to-back singles, and Wilgus then scored after consecutive sacrifice flies by Hassfurther and Damon Wilmes to fasten the count at 5-all. Yet after scoring the tying run, Forest Park proceeded to abandon two runners, one in scoring position. The Rangers left 12 runners on base in the contest.
“I’m not sure what to take of the game,” Howard continued. “Hopefully I’ll sleep tonight, figure it out this weekend, come back next week and see what happens.”
Contact Joe Jasinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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