FORRESTON – With a combined 10 hits, all of which were singles, the Amboy and Forreston baseball teams didn’t exactly rip the cover off the ball in Saturday’s Class 1A Forreston Regional title game.
The Cardinals, however, used some exemplary glove work to propel themselves to a 4-2 victory against the Clippers at soggy Warnken Park. A scheduled 11 a.m. game did not begin until 1:45 p.m. due to lightning, rain and field preparation.
Amboy (9-11) had issues in the field, especially early. Three first-inning errors led to two unearned runs, and another miscue in the third inning gifted Forreston (24-7) a third run.
“For the most part, we’ve been pretty solid defensively most of the year,” Amboy coach Chris Tidmore said. “We’ve had some people that have had to step up because of some personal situations, and it put us in a worse situation than we could have been.
“Today, a couple of guys made some key errors, that unfortunately cost us the ballgame.”
The Cardinals tacked on an insurance run in the fifth inning, after Jacob Swanson drew a two-out, based-loaded walk from Amboy reliever Mitchell McLaughlin. It was Forreston’s lone RBI in the contest.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, put on a defensive clinic in the first six error-free innings. In the fourth inning, second baseman Dylan Greenfield turned a hot smash off the bat of Zimmerly into a double play, then center fielder Hunter Rogers hauled in a drive off the bat of McLaughlin that nearly went out of the yard.
The Clippers’ Lane Boehle led off with a single in the fifth, then was thrown out trying to steal a base by Forreston catcher Ethan Greenfield.
To begin the sixth inning, pinch hitter Jairon Hochstatter hit a line drive into right-center that seemed destined for a hit, only to be snagged by a diving Rogers.
Cardinals starter Hayden Singley (9-1) allowed three hits and a walk, with six strikeouts, in six shutout innings.
“I was just thinking throw strikes, get it over the plate, try to stay at the knees and move it in and out,” Singley
said. “The change-up was working well today. The curveball was working well. Otherwise, there were a lot of good plays by the defense, so I’m thankful for my team.”
Amboy, however, came back to make things very interesting in the top of the seventh off reliever Braedon Fyock. He hit McLaughlin to start the inning, Boehle singled to right, and they moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Preston Henkel.
The next batter, Logan Whelchel, hit a lazy fly to right that was dropped by the Cardinals’ Swanson, allowing McLaughlin to score his team’s first run.
Andruw Jones followed with a single to right, moving Boehle to third and bringing the potential tying run in Mason McCoy to the plate. McCoy grounded out to third, but Boehle scored to narrow the deficit to 4-2.
With runners in scoring position, Ian Eller struck out to end the game.
“That’s been our M.O. all season – we’ve never been out of a ballgame, we’ve felt like,” Tidmore said of the late rally. “We’ve battled back and won big games like this, and we’ve lost games like this. I’m proud of their effort, even though we didn’t get the result we wanted. It works that way sometimes.”
Zimmerly (3-1) was the tough-luck loser for the Clippers. In three innings, he allowed three runs (none earned), two hits and one walk, with five strikeouts. McLaughlin also tossed three innings, allowing one earned run, three hits and three walks, with five strikeouts.
Amboy and Forreston had split during the regular
season, with each winning on the other team’s field. Zimmerly noted the team was fired up to nab another win at Warnken Park, but the nearly 3-hour delay didn’t help.
“We went into the junior high gym and just kind of laid around for a couple of hours,” he said. “Then we came back and didn’t hit the ball like we usually do, until the last inning. Pitching was great, but it just didn’t go our way today.”
Next up for Forreston is the Lena-Winslow Sectional on Wednesday. The Cardinals will take on River Ridge, which won the Pearl City Regional with a 6-5 victory against the host Wolves.