An undefeated season was on the line for the Riverdogs in their Tuesday night Jhawk 4 Baseball game with the Mud Cats at Holcom. The Riverdogs had won their two previous matchups with the Mud Dogs earlier this season.
The Riverdogs struck early and held off the late surge from the Mud Cats to take a 6-4 victory.
"We hit the ball better than normal today," Riverdogs coach Kevin Kressig said. "The boys were connecting on some long hits."
In the first inning, Mud Cats pitcher Cameron Pratte got off to a solid start, taking Wyatt Hasvold to a full count before tossing ball four.
In Jhawk 4 Baseball, there are no walks. After four balls are pitched, the coach of the batting team comes in to throw the batter two more pitches. Hasvold didn't hit either of the pitches and was the first out of the inning.
A base hit from Wyatt Ohse was wasted when the next two batters, Anthony Groene and Kane Eggers. struck out to end the inning and strand Ohse.
Michael Kressig was on the mound for the Riverdogs and had a solid inning. Kressig forced lead-off batter Zach Gifford into a groundout. Matthew Michels hit a single. Then Evan Barnes advanced the runner with an infield single, almost reaching base were it not for a great catch from Riverdogs first baseman Ohse.
Austin Neuburger hit a single to third, but Michels was called out after running outside the baseline. That left both teams scoreless at the end of the first inning.
In the second, the Riverdogs pulled ahead with the help of the bats of the bottom of the lineup. A new pitcher was on the mound for the Mud Cats, Noah Weaver. Weaver struck out the first batter before giving up a single to Stephen Hodges. A triple from Scott Sickinger drove in a run, and then Nathan Evers' double drove in another.
Franklin Brou hit a double to deep center, driving in another run. Kressig got on base to set up Anna Wright for an RBI double to reach the five-run per inning limit.
In the bottom of the second, the Mud Cats had to dig out of a five-run hole. But solid pitching from the Riverdogs' Kressig didn't allow a single runner to reach base. Noah Weaver struck out, Luke Lesslie popped out and John Easton struck out to end the inning.
In the top of the third, Barnes came to the mound for the Mud Cats and began by striking out Jacob Warren. Hasvold got on base with a double. Ohse struck out for the second out of the inning before Groene drove in another run to push the Riverdogs' lead to six. Weylan Lindeman struck out to end the inning and strand Groene and Kane Eggers on base.
In the bottom of the third, the Mud Cats' Pratte got on to lead off the inning with a single to right field off the Riverdogs' new pitcher, Warren.
Gifford followed the hit up with one of his own. Michels got on base with a single, but Pratte was caught at third for the first out of the inning. Barnes took his base after being hit by a pitch. Kressig made a heads-up double play by catching a pop fly off the bat of Neuburger and then stepping on second to end to inning.
The Mud Cats needed to keep the game close, so they brought Lesslie to the mound to close out the game.
Lesslie responded and got the first two batters out before a fielding error allowed Evers to get to first. Lesslie clamped down, threw strikes and took Brou out swinging to end the inning.
Going into the bottom of the fourth, the Mud Cats were down 6-0 and due to the five-run limit had no chance of winning the game.
But that didn't stop them from adding to their run total.
Weaver got the bats going with a lead-off double, and Lesslie followed up with a single, putting a runner in scoring position. Easton struck out, but a single from Pratte put a run on the board for the Mud Cats. Gifford followed up with a single to load the bases. Michels' single to left drove in two more runs.
Neuburger popped up and Brou made a play exactly like his teammate, Kressig, did in the third, stepping on second to get the double play and end the game.
Brou said it felt great to get the final out of the inning in such dramatic fashion.
"It was just instinct to catch the ball and step on the bag," Brou said. "We have not had a double play this year, and then we get two in one game."
The Riverdogs defeated the Mud Cats for the third time this season.
"Our pitching was good tonight and it was helped by excellent defense," Kressig said.
Mud Cats coach Rob Easton said the team got after it a little bit late.
"They needed to be playing like they were doing in the last inning earlier in the game," Easton said. "We were short tonight, and that hurt us."
In the two games the team had left, the goals were the same: to continue to have fun and get the kids the experience playing the different positions.
"Changing pitchers is something we always do in our games," Easton said. "We switch it up and see what people can do. The boys like to have the opportunity to play all over the field."
Kressig and his team say they will not be disappointed if they don't finish the season undefeated, but felt confident that it was a possibility.
The Mud Cats and Riverdogs finished their season last night.