By Cassandra Swartz:
In a district matchup Thursday night, Buchholz went down early against Leon but scored nine unanswered to eventually win 10-5.
“I’m proud of the way we hung in there,” said Bobcats head coach Ron Brooks. “Leon did a good job putting pressure on us in the first inning.”
In a shaky start for starting pitcher Anthony Wilkie and the rest of the defense, the Lions put them in a four-run hole to begin the game. Eddie Castillo led off with a single, followed up by Andrew Penney getting hit by a pitch.
Roan Tarbert bunted toward Wilkie who attempted to force the lead runner out, but the throw to third base went awry and Castillo rounded and raced home to make it 1-0. Kieran Hemenway became the second hit batter of the inning and loaded the bases for Parker Thomson who then hit a grounder down the first base line.
The ‘Cats tried to force Penney out at home, but the throw went high, and catcher Noah Hayse couldn’t tag the runner or step on the base. Bases loaded again with no outs, Caleb Richards reached on another fielder’s choice, this time with Buchholz getting the runner out at second.
Still, Tarbert crossed the plate to make it 3-0.
Austin Rayborn drove in the final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly that Hemenway was able to tag up and score on. Tucker Narkinsky got the nod on the mound for Leon and started out strong with three strikeouts, mitigating the risk of a Hayse single and Caden Kresak reaching because the first baseman blocked the bag.
Now settled in, the ‘Cats put away the Lions in order in the second to put themselves back at the plate. After two quick outs, Buchholz pieced together a short rally, started by a walk drawn by Wilkie, to cut into the deficit. Alex Kastensmidt drove a double to score Wilkie’s courtesy runner, Ty Robertson, and Donny Hiebert laced a single that brought Kastensmidt home to make it 4-2.
Again, the Lions were put away in order in the top of the third. Brett Blair drew a walk to start the home half, and Cole Smithers reached on a well-placed bunt. Both runners were moved into scoring position on a sac bunt by Kyle Brewer, and both scored on a Wilkie single to tie the game at four a-piece.
For the third straight inning, the Lions got sent back to the dugout in order, with Wilkie notching two more strikeouts, bringing his total at the time to four.
“The first inning was a little wild, but after that I felt pretty good,” he said following the game, adding that it got better after he was able to locate his curveball. Intent on a complete comeback, the ‘Cats didn’t let up in the fourth.
They quickly loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter. Blair drilled a ball into deep center, but it was caught a few feet short of clearing the fence and being a grand slam.
He still knocked in the go-ahead run, as Hiebert tagged up and easily crossed the plate to make it 5-4. Another walk ended Narkinsky’s outing, and Joey Bramblett took over with the bases loaded. Buchholz welcomed him to the game by drawing three easy runs off of an RBI walk, an RBI hit batter and a wild pitch.
Kastensmidt drove in Brewer on a sac-fly for the ninth Bobcats run of the game. Leon snatched a run back on an error in the fifth to make it 9-5 and end the unanswered streak, and then got its only 1-2-3 inning on defense.
Back up to bat in the top of the sixth, the visitors hit a double and single but left the runners stranded. Smithers opened the bottom of the sixth with a double and was driven in by Jackson Peters for the tenth and final run of the game.
Kresak took over for Wilkie on the mound to attempt the save, and, despite giving up a walk and a single, did close out the game without any more Lions scoring. Wilkie tossed six innings with five strikeouts and came through over the plate with two walks and a two-RBI single.
“Once we tied it up, we did awesome,” said Wilkie. “Defense was better [and] hitting picked up.”
Smithers had a walk, single, double and three runs on the afternoon.
“I was in a slump in the beginning of the season, so it’s finally good to come out of it and start hitting runs these past few games, especially this game,” he said.
Coach Brooks was pleased with his team’s performance, saying, “We’re finding different ways to win...and we’re moving in the right direction.”
The ‘Cats improved to 13-4-1, while the Lions are now 11-9. Both teams play games on Saturday, and then Leon will be looking for revenge as they host a rematch on Tuesday.