BATTLE CREEK – In a back and forth affair, the Shelby-Osceola-Stromsburg (SOS) juniors survived Pender, 10-9 in the opening round of the Class C Junior State Tournament, Saturday.
It was an interesting start to the state tournament as the game saw three lead changes, eight different pitchers and several questionable plays.
SOS struck first in the first frame when Mickey Hoatson drove a ball into left field for an RBI double. Pender quickly answered in the bottom half of the inning after the first two batters reached, including an RBI single by Devin Hegee.
Pender wasn’t done. They scored again in the second inning after the first two batters were walked to start the frame. Chris Rutar hit a sacrifice fly to the outfield that brought in the second run of the game. They then struck again in the third inning after Jaxon Maize hit an infield grounder that brought in the runner from third.
It stayed a 3-1 ball game in favor of Pender until the fourth inning. Grady Belt brought home Wyatt Whitmore on a bloop single into left field after an error by the Pender shortstop. It was 3-2, Pender after four.
The train started coming off the tracks in the fifth inning for Pender defensively. After hitting a batter, committing an error and making a questionable throw on the infield, four runs would come across to score for SOS. Whitmore, Jett Pinneo, Bailey Belt and Austin Coffin all drove in runs, all coming by singles. SOS led, 6-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Pender fought back in the bottom of the inning. A lead off double and a walk immediately put runners in scoring position for Pender. Will Gatzmeyer and Eric Shopkee each drove in runs. It became a 6-5 game after five.
Once again, SOS would score four more runs in the sixth inning. None of the hits were more than a single in the inning. Pinneo drove in two more, Coffin would drive in another and Pierce Branting would join the party with an RBI single. It would be the biggest lead of the night as SOS led 10-5 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
The Pender juniors wouldn’t go away though as they too scored four runs in the inning. Shopkee drove in two, Gatzmeyer and Maize also drove in runs to make it 10-9 after six.
Pender had an opportunity in the seventh inning with the tying run at second and two outs. But the runner at second tried to catch the SOS defense napping and tried to nab third while SOS walked back to the mound. The SOS defense was ready and the Pender runner was thrown out to end the game.
Bailey Belt was awarded the win on the mound while Zach Hegge picked up the loss.
SOS will play Battle Creek in the second round at 7 p.m. on Sunday. It will be aired on KOOL Radio, 103.5FM 1370AM and online at koolradionow.com.
Pender falls to the losers bracket where they will play Wymore in a must win game.