DIXON – Opportunities for a big inning were going cheap on Monday at Veterans Memorial Park, but neither the host Dukes or Byron wanted to take advantage of the sale through four innings.
Instead, the Byron Tigers waited and were rewarded in the fifth inning. A six-run tally opened up a back-and-forth affair and led to 15-4 victory in Dixon's home opener.
"We know against good teams we can't let chances to score runs go by," Byron catcher Jack Fleeger said. "Getting a run here or a run there isn't going to cut it in our conference. We know we have to get better."
Fleeger delivered the crushing blow, a two-out grand slam in the fifth off Brandon Jagitsch. The bags became juiced after errors on consecutive plays.
Fleeger lifted a 1-1 pitch over the left-field fence.
"That was the momentum changer," Fleeger said. "We had left runners on early in the game. We needed something big."
Jagitsch was in relief of A.J. Murdock (0-1). After playing three games over the weekend at the Galesburg tournament and with four more games slated for the week, the Dukes' ranks on the mound were thin.
Jagitsch isn't considered a pitcher. Yet, both Murdock and Jagitsch battled and did a nice job of getting ground balls. The defense, which committed six errors, didn't back them up.
"I don't know what team that was," Dixon coach Sam Gallucci said. "I can't remember us ever playing like that. It certainly wasn't the team that I saw this weekend that beat Galesburg and Knoxville."
After falling behind 2-0, Dixon (2-2) looked like it might get a big inning in the second after Ryan Dixon and Nate Grocke started the inning with walks and Jagitsch was hit by a pitch.
Jagitsch was the last batter that starter Jeff Lilliard faced. In came Dennis Reedy to face Riley Mehrens.
Reedy fanned Mehrens and then coaxed Cody Mighell into an infield fly. The pop up wasn't caught, and Dixon scored on the ensuing confusion.
Another flyout and Dixon had managed a lone run from the threat.
"I think after that the energy was out of us," Mighell said. "We were hanging our heads a bit. I think we were feeling the pressure a little bit, because it was our first home game."
Mighell, who threw a runner out at third base from center field in the first, had the Dukes' biggest hit. He connected for an RBI double that bounded off the center-field fence in the fourth.
"That felt really good," Mighell said. "Over the weekend, I only had a squeeze bunt. I was glad to make some good contact today."
Reedy went the rest of the way for Byron.
"Reedy came in and got out of tough situation," Byron coach Tom Schmidt said. "He kept working out there. With Rock Falls tomorrow (today), we wanted to save our pitching a bit. Now, we can go out with our ace against their ace."
The Tigers play at Rock Falls today at 4:30 p.m. in a battle of two of the favorites in the Big Northern West.
Steeger finished his day with another home run in the seventh inning. In all, he had three hits, two home runs and six RBIs.
Conner Sperling had an RBI double for Dixon.
Star of the game; Jack Fleeger, Byron, 2 HR, 6 RBIs
Key performers: Dennis Reedy, winning pitcher; Cody Mighell, Dixon, 2 hits, 2B, RBI
Up next: Dixon at Freeport, 4:30 p.m. today