DIXON – As a catcher, Kyle Crawford does most of his best work behind the plate, handling the Dixon pitching staff.
In Tuesday’s baseball game against Byron, Crawford showed he can do some damage with the bat.
Crawford’s two-out RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning was the difference in the Dukes’ 4-3 victory against the Tigers at Veterans Memorial Field. It was a watershed moment for the Dixon junior, who was mobbed by teammates after his walk-off hit.
“I’ve never had a game-winning hit ever,” Crawford said. “It’s like the greatest feeling ever.”
John Oldman began the winning rally with a one-out single. He then stole second base, and was replaced by courtesy runner Isaic Sanchez.
After Brock Burgess flew out to deep left field for the second out, Crawford stepped to the plate. With the count 2-0, he turned on a fastball from Byron reliever Drew Linhart and drove it over the head of Tigers’ center fielder
Austin Buser all the way to the fence. Sanchez scored easily on the play.
“I was just trying to take it the other way and get a base hit,” Crawford said, “but what happened,
“I told him beforehand, ‘Be ready, You’ve got a chance to win this game,’” Dixon coach Jason Burgess said. “‘Just zone in, look for a pitch and drive it up the middle.’ He was the right kid for that spot, and came up with a huge hit for us.”
Dixon (7-1, 7-1 Big Northern) scored two runs in the third inning. Kade Callison led off with a single, moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Payton Lawrence, and scored on a single by
Cole took second on the play, but rolled his right ankle after rounding the base and was carried off the field by Dixon coaches. His status for games the rest of the week is unknown.
Joseph Heckert, running for Cole, scored on a throwing error by Byron shortstop Ben Schultz for the inning’s second run.
Byron (5-3, 3-2) scored all of its runs in the top of the fifth, with the help of two Dixon errors. Dylan Regez reached on a one-out single, then Buser followed with a grounder that was bobbled by Dukes’ shortstop Lawrence, who had taken over for Cole at that position.
“If we turn that double play, we’re out of the inning and they don’t get anything,” coach Burgess said. “That’s the nature of the beast in baseball. We’ve struggled with double plays all year, but someday we’re going to get one we need.”
Mason Snodgrass followed with a double down the right-field line, scoring Regez. Buser also scored when Dixon second baseman Tyler Lowry bobbled a relay throw. Snodgrass scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch from Dixon starter Andrew Long.
Dixon tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Oldman. He drove in Lawrence, who had singled with one out, stole second, and moved to third on a single by Heckert.
Byron threatened in the top of the sixth. Dylan Stallings led off with a double, and moved up a base on a groundout. The next batter, Chase Binkley, hit a sharp grounder to Lawrence at shortstop, but Lawrence made the play and Stallings stayed put.
“If that ball’s 3 feet one way or the other, it’s a run,” Byron coach Dale Hartman said, “but that’s baseball. After that, Dixon got back in control a little bit and seized the momentum back, but our guys fought hard. It was a great ballgame.”
Long struck out Bryant Linhart to end the top of the sixth inning, and the Tigers didn’t threaten again.
Byron left the bases loaded – barely – in the fourth inning. With two outs, Binkley hit a shot toward the gap in left-center field, but it was run down by Brendan Hartman, who made a diving catch.
Both teams got strong outings on the mound. For Dixon, Long went six innings, allowing three runs (one earned), six hits and one walk, with 13 strikeouts. Oldman (3-0) got the win with two innings of hitless relief.
Byron starter Cameron Miller overcame occasional wildness to keep his club in the game. He gave up three runs (all earned), five hits and two walks, and also hit two batters, in five innings. Drew Linhart (0-1) took the loss, allowing one earned run and one hit in 2 2/3 innings of relief.
Dixon 4, Byron 3, 8 inn.
Star of the game: Kyle Crawford, Dixon, walk-off RBI 2B
Key performers: Andrew Long, Dixon, 6 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 13 SO; Mason Snodgrass, Byron, 3-for-4, 2B, RBI, R
Up next: Dixon at Byron, 4:30 p.m. Thursday