Hunter gathers win with 5 scoreless innings in relief
Down to their final out, Pioneer comes back to beat Winamac in extras
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
WINAMAC – Peyton Schnurpel scored on a wild pitch with two outs in the seventh inning to tie the game, and Brayden Erickson drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth to give the Pioneer baseball team a 5-4 win over host Winamac Thursday.
Hunter Klepinger pitched five scoreless innings in relief of starter Caleb Sweet for the win. His only 1-2-3 inning was the bottom of the eighth to close it out.
He struck out Dakota Wallace looking to start the inning. Russell Compton then grounded towards second base. Caleb Sweet went to his left, and his throw was initially ruled by the base umpire as pulling first baseman Brenton Gaumer off the bag.
The umpires then conferred and reversed the call and ruled Compton out.
Klepinger then struck out Caleb Good to end it.
“Right now, because of the way that we needed the momentum to carry, it was the biggest win of the year,” Pioneer coach Josh Hardy said. “We need this win. We need to continue winning going into sectionals. Obviously, this helps for conference, but I’m still worried about getting us going for the sectional run in a couple weeks at Caston.”
Pioneer rallied from a 3-0 deficit and never led until the eighth.
Trailing 4-3, Pioneer was down to their final out in the seventh. Sweet grounded to third to start the inning off Winamac’s Hayden Clark, who was trying to save the win for Caleb Seymour.
Catcher Wyatt Zeider walked on a 3-2 pitch, and Schnurpel came in as a courtesy runner. Tyler Gaumer then grounded a single in the hole between short and third, moving Schnurpel to second.
Clark then threw a curve that was dropped for a passed ball and only bounced about three feet to the catcher’s left. Schnurpel and Gaumer took off. The throw went to third, and Schnurpel slid in safely.
Clark recovered to strike out Daniel Reyes swinging. Winamac was one out away.
But then Clark spiked a fastball in front of home plate that ticked off catcher Tyler Perry’s mask and bounced away. Schnurpel scored standing up to tie the game.
“On that passed ball, I saw that it hit the dirt first and bounce over the catcher’s head, and I told Peyton, ‘You’re going,’ and he was going, and he’s a quick kid, and he got there for us,” Hardy said.
Winamac third baseman Dylan Brown then charged Klepinger’s grounder and threw him out to keep the game even.
Brown walked with two outs and advanced into scoring position on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. But Klepinger struck out Carter Field swinging to send the game to extra innings.
“I was locating my fastball, and my curve ball, I was throwing for a strike every time,” Klepinger said. “I wasn’t too tired. I was kinda hyped up on adrenaline frm the game being close.”
Winamac coach Marcus Kay replaced Clark with Mitchell Bonnell on the mound to start the eighth.
Owen Mersch led off with his third single, and he then stole his third base. Brenton Gaumer hit a foul pop towards the left side that was dropped for an error. Given another life, Brenton Gaumer then grounded to Paxton Wallace at first. He fed Bonnell covering for the out that moved Mersch to third.
Erickson, a freshman shortstop who was flexed to start the game but who moved into the lineup in the sixth, then hit a fly to Clark, now playing center field.
“They outhit us,” Winamac coach Marcus Kay said. “They hit the ball hard. I just think they outplayed us a little bit. As far as the total baseball game, I told the guys that’s three or four games in a row now that I’ve thought we’ve really held our own.”
Clark had thrown out Gavin Clem trying to tag and score on Klepinger’s fly out for an inning-ending double play in the fifth. But this time, Erickson hit the ball too deep, and Mersch was able to score ahead of Clark’s long throw to put Pioneer ahead.
“Obviously, he’s been pitching varsity for us as of late,” Hardy said of Erickson. “At the beginning of the year, just because he’s a freshman, it’s all a little different, and I wanted to ease him in. He got a lot of JV at-bats at the beginning of the year, so I wanted to make sure he got enough there. I told him today, ‘You might get your shot.’ We’ll have a DH, but you might come in to hit. And he did. … First at-bat, he got a walk. The second at-bat, he got that RBI. I’m pretty excited about that.”
Winamac scored three runs off Sweet with two outs in the first. Clark had an RBI double to the right-center field gap to plate Compton, and Brown singled to right-center field to bring home Clark and Seymour.
Pioneer tied it in the top of the third off Seymour, Winamac’s curve-balling sophomore. Daniel Reyes drove home two runs with a single with the bases loaded, and Klepinger lined a single to center to tie the game.
Winamac retook the lead in the bottom half thanks to Clark’s aggressive baserunning. He led off with a walk and stone second. Seymour then reached on an infield single, and when the throw to try and get him at first was in the dirt, Clark scored all the way from second to give Winamac a 4-3 lead.
The double play that included Clark’s deadeye throw from center field ended the top of the fifth. But Winamac had runners onm second and third with one out in the bottom half but couldn’t score when Tyler Gaumer snagged Brown’s liner and Zeider then picked Seymour off third on a snap throw.
Winamac loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, but Tyler Gaumer went a long ways to retire Clark on a pop in Winamac’s ample foul territory.
That left the Winamac lead at one going into the seventh.
The teams will meet again at Pioneer at 5 p.m. today in the finale of their two-game set.
“The worst thing that you can do is sit on a loss on a Friday night for two nights,” Kay said. “You know you’ve got Saturday (and) Sunday. We talked. The conference is still not out of reach. … It would’ve been nice to sweep Pioneer. That’s not going to happen now. So now the best we can do is we’ve got to go to Royal Center tomorrow and take care of business on our side and see how the weekend plays out with everybody else.”
Pioneer 5, Winamac 4 (8 innings)
Pioneer 003 000 11 – 5 11 3
Winamac 301 000 00 – 4 5 2
WP – Hunter Klepinger (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 HBP, 5 K)
LP – Mitchell Bonnell (1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K)
2B – Wyatt Zeider (PIO), Hayden Clark (WIN)
Owen Mersch had three hits and three stolen bases and scored the winning run for Pioneer in a 5-4 road win over Winamac in eight innings Thursday. The teams will meet again at 5 p.m. Friday at Pioneer.