STERLING – Relief was in the air Tuesday afternoon at Gartner Park.
Sterling felt that emotion after snapping a six-game losing streak with a 10-5 victory over Dixon. It was due in large part to the relief effort turned in by the Golden Warriors' Eldon Oltmanns, who didn't allow a run in five innings on the mound.
Oltmanns (2-0) entered the game in the top of the third with Sterling trailing 5-3, but shut down Dixon on just two hits the rest of the way. He also struck out four batters and didn't walk any.
"I hit my spots," Oltmanns said. "Coach [Robbie] Minor is always talking about hitting your spots, and with [catcher] David [Gottemoller] back there giving me the spots where to hit, I was hitting them. They just really couldn't catch up to me."
Dixon (7-15, 2-8 NIB-12 West) scored an unearned run in the first inning, then put together five consecutive two-out hits against Sterling starter Kaleb Francque in the second inning to go up 5-1. The key knocks were a two-run double by Nate Grocke and a two-run single by Cal Jarrett.
That would be it offensively for the Dukes, however, and the Golden Warriors continuously pecked away at the deficit before catching, and finally, passing Dixon.
Sterling (9-13, 3-7) marked in every inning, and players up and down the lineup contributed. Leadoff hitter Tanner Morse tripled, singled, scored two runs and drove in two; No. 2 hitter Bryant Lilly singled twice and drove in three runs; and the Nos. 7-8-9 batters (Trevor Delgado, Frankie Perino and Brandon Dennis) were a combined 5-for-8 with three walks, three RBIs and five runs scored.
"We finally had some two-strike hits," Minor said. "The guys were choking up, shortening their swings and putting the ball in play. We haven't had that a whole lot this year, and it was nice to see the bottom of our order produce."
Dixon pitchers Jarrett, Grocke and Riley Mehrens combined to issue nine walks, and combined with 11 Sterling hits, trouble was brewing constantly for the Dukes.
"The big factor was walks, and that turned into runs," Dixon coach Sam Gallucci said. "We gave up too many walks, and we didn't hit at the right time."
Jarrett saw his first action on the mound since leaving an April 15 game against LaSalle-Peru in the second inning due to elbow soreness. He was rusty in his return with four runs (all earned), four hits and five walks, while striking out five in three innings.
"I guess some days you just don't have it," Jarrett said. "Obviously that's not the way I wanted to come back off injury. My confidence is fine. I was hoping to do well to get my confidence up, but I'll be fine. I just didn't have it today. That's all it is."
Star of the game: Eldon Oltmanns, Sterling, 5 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 4 SO
Key performers: Bryant Lilly, Sterling, 2-for-2, 3 RBI; Trevor Delgado, Sterling, 2-for-2, 2 R, 2 RBI; Nate Grocke, Dixon, 3-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI
Up next: Streator at Sterling, 4:30 today; Sterling at Dixon, 4:30 Thursday