STERLING – Being run-ruled appeared more likely than a comeback for the Sterling baseball team midway through Monday’s nonconference game against Rock Island.
Instead, the Golden Warriors rallied for six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game. The Rocks, however, responded in the top of the seventh with three runs, and held on for a 10-8 victory at Gartner Park.
Rock Island (2-4) took advantage of seven Sterling errors, including one to start the
“That’s something we’ve been struggling with early on,” Sterling coach Nick Pepper said. “I think we can be a good team, and these guys know we can be a good team. We just have to clean up those little mistakes, because they hurt us big time.”
Caleb Carroll reached on a throwing error by Cooper Willman – the third and final error of the game by the Warriors shortstop. Tyler Lampkin ripped a single, and Ian Purvis put the Rocks ahead 8-7 with a single to left, scoring pinch runner Spencer Hasselroth.
Logan Conner scored on an error after Henry Thompson singled into right, and Bryce Trask’s double scored Austin Ford to make it 10-7 Rocks.
Sterling (1-4) inched closer in the bottom of the seventh after Jacob Kessler beat out an infield single to score pinch runner Kyle Ortgiesen. However, Alex Escalante was called out after the base umpire ruled that Ford made a diving catch in right field to record the second out, and Evan Tira struck out looking with runners on first and second to end it.
“We lost to Dunlap and Galesburg in the seventh inning last week,” Rock Island coach Jay Wayland said. “Tonight, we found a way to win. We knew coming in that we needed to score runs.”
The Warriors staged a furious rally in the sixth inning with one out. Brayden Wolf was hit by a pitch, Camden Bailey doubled to left, and pinch hitter Haze Morales walked to load the bases.
Christian Monarrez singled up the middle to score Wolf and Ortgiesen. Kessler followed with a single of his own into center to score Escalante, and Morales raced home after a throwing error to cut it to 7-5.
Kessler scored on a wild pitch, and Cooper Willman tied it with an RBI single through the right side.
“The energy was low to start the game. Once we had a little talk about it, we started to fight back,” Pepper said. “I’m definitely proud of the guys to come back and tie it up. Carter Lehman pitched great; he gave us a chance on the mound.”
Lehman took the loss in relief of Dylan Bryant. Lehman allowed four runs (three earned) and six hits while striking out seven over four innings, while Bryant allowed six runs (five earned) and six hits in his three-inning start.
The Rocks erupted for five runs in the second inning.
Lampkin reached on an error by Willman, and Ford singled up the middle to begin the rally. Purvis singled up the middle to load the bases.
Henry Thompson was hit in the helmet by a Bryant pitch to bring in Conner. Trask singled up the middle to score Ford and Purvis, and Charlie Allison knocked a single through the right side to score Thompson and Trask.
Rock Island added insurance runs in the third and fourth.
Lampkin doubled to start the third, and Conner beat the throw home on a squeeze bunt by Purvis to make it 6-0. Carroll singled into right to score Trask, who beat out an infield single to the fourth.
The Rocks finished 8-for-16 with runners in scoring position, while the Warriors were 5-for-14.
“Our guys have learned to adjust to the count and shorten up, which is a testament to their maturity,” Wayland said. “The other factor is that we bunted really well. We have a nice combination of small ball and swinging it.”
Sterling marked the board in the bottom of the fourth. Willman recorded his team’s first hit with a double into the left-center gap, and Bailey brought him home two batters later on a sacrifice fly.
Vincent Esposito earned the win in relief for the Rocks, despite allowing three runs, four hits and two walks while striking out two in 1 2/3 innings. Starter Carson James allowed one run, one hit and three walks while striking out four over four-innings. James retired nine straight Warriors after walking Tira to start the game.
The Warriors found success against Joseph Dilulio, who recorded four outs in relief and allowed four runs on two hits.