Sports

Trojans share SEC baseball title

Carter Ferrel celebrates after scoring the game-winning run Monday night at the middle school fields against Mt. Pleasant.
Carter Ferrel celebrates after scoring the game-winning run Monday night at the middle school fields against Mt. Pleasant.
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The Fairfield baseball team had sort of the same night as the softball team did on Monday, splitting with their rival Mt. Pleasant at home to share the SEC title.

The main difference is that the small-ballers came from behind in the first game before losing game two, leaving them with a sour taste in their mouth after sniffing the sweet smell of success just as it’s pleasures were wafted away by the Panthers’ own comeback victory that forced the rivals to share the crown.

“You never want to share something like that with someone else,” explained junior Drew Martin. “It’s just the way it is.”

Game one

Fairfield only tallied four total hits, but earned an additional five base runners via walks drawn that allowed the Trojans to first take a 1-0 lead in the first before going scoreless until they trailed 2-1 heading into the home-half of the seventh.

The comeback

It started with Martin roping a double to the gap in right-center field.

“It felt solid off the bat, yeah,” explained the outfielder. “I just did the same thing I always do and trust myself and my team and it’s going to happen. When I’m on-deck I just get my reads and time the pitcher so I can get a second at-bat when I’m up there.”

Next was fellow junior Carter Ferrel who plays a sort-of reserved role for the Trojans, although he gets regular playing time.

“Honestly, I knew before the at-bat that coach was going to give me a bunt sign, so I just started thinking in my head to get it down.” explained the second basemen. “I just did it for the team and followed what the coaches told me to do. I saw the pitch coming in flat, it was a fastball, and I told myself to get the top of the ball and get it down and make sure to send it down a baseline so it didn’t just roll back to the pitcher. That’s what was going through my mind.”

Ferrel not only dropped a successful sacrifice bunt, he forced the defensive player to try to make a play at third and reached first safely on a fielder’s choice with Martin reaching third in the process.

Senior Kosta Papazoglou came to the dish and did what he could to frazzle the pitcher by calling for time and messing with the Panthers’ timing and focus.

It worked because Ferrel was able to advance to second and give the Trojans the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

K-Pap then gapped a single that would have been a long double if the winning runs in Martin and Ferrel wouldn’t have crossed home before he boomed into second.

“I got the first pitch curve ball I was expecting because they keep trying to jam me inside and that’s usually my favorite pitch to hit,” said Papazoglou. “If you’re going to throw that at me, I’m going to make pretty good contact. Most of my home runs this year have been like that and he just hung it and I put it in the gap and scored two runs.”

K-Pap also gave himself the victory with the gapper, going seven full innings and throwing 103 pitches with two runs allowed, neither earned, on seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk.

Game two

“I look at the way we played the second game and that was really disappointing,” said Coach Josh Allison. “I thought we had turned the corner on being able to battle for a full seven innings, but we came out in game two and don’t play until the sixth inning. What are we doing here. We had an opportunity to take it outright and we missed that opportunity. We give them credit for hitting their pitches, but if we would have been focused like we were in the sixth inning maybe a little bit different story.”

Mt. Pleasant jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning and extended that advantage to five to zero with an insurance run in the sixth. After FHS forced the game to a tie with five in the home half of the sixth, the Panthers claimed a share of the SEC crown with the decisive run in the top of the seventh.

Jackson Weaton went three innings and allowed four runs, all earned, on three hits with one strikeout and three walks.

Caden Jones pitched the final four innings in relief and allowed two runs, both earned, off of four hits with two strikeouts and a walk.

Play of the day

Besides the walk-off the highlight of the evening was a double play made by senior Cooper Drish that involved him making an incredibly athletic leaping catch before sticking the landing and doubling off the runner at first.

Did you jump and pray?

“No, I didn’t! I saw the ball off of the bat and in my head I thought, ‘Gee, that’s kind of high,’ so I started to run and I jumped and kind of swung my arm to get extra momentum. Once I caught it, I realized I needed to land because there was a guy on first and then I saw he was halfway [to second] and I just gunned it to Simps and made the play. It’s routine. I was kind of offended when someone said they were surprised I could jump that high anymore, [because of the ankle.] (Cooper has battled ankle stability in the past)

“The only things worth thinking about are tomorrow’s game [versus Muscatine] and how we’re going to get back at [Mt. Pleasant] for postseason because they are in our district.” - Cole Engle

“It was a good feeling to know that we had at least a split of the conference championship. Now that we have, it’s not a good feeling sharing the title, but at that point we knew we had at least tied for it and that felt good because we were down and had to come back.” - Carter Ferrel

“I’m not really focused on the conference, just the postseason and getting better as a team and getting some wins so we can make it to state. That’s what matters most, playing our best ball at the end of the season so we can play our best ball into the postseason.” - Kosta Papazoglou

“I’m just here to avoid getting fined,” joked a sad Austin Simpson whom tried to find humor in the awkward night air.

Coach Allison

“Our biggest thing is getting everybody to play together. We’ve had some times where things get a little rough and we’re being a little selfish. If they can start playing for each other and together, and we’re saying this about a 17-4 team, it’s going to be scary when they figure out that team is more important than them. When we get there, that’s when we are going to see some really good baseball. Our two goals as always are to play together and have fun and the rest will take care of itself and we’re not really doing either one of those right now.”

That might explain why no one is smiling?

“Yes!” said Allison.

Play of the day

Besides the walk-off the highlight of the evening was a double play made by senior Cooper Drish that involved him making an incredibly athletic leaping catch before sticking the landing and doubling off the runner at first.

Did you jump and pray?

“No, I didn’t! I saw the ball off of the bat and in my head I thought, ‘Gee, that’s kind of high,’ so I started to run and I jumped and kind of swung my arm to get extra momentum. Once I caught it, I realized I needed to land because there was a guy on first and then I saw he was halfway [to second] and I just gunned it to Simps and made the play. It’s routine. I was kind of offended when someone said they were surprised I could jump that high anymore, [because of the ankle.] (Cooper has battled ankle stability in the past.)

Next

Fairfield will travel to Pekin tonight and host Davis County on Friday.