By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD — There weren’t any proverbial, hyped-up pregame messages on the Logan-Rogersville bus prior to Wednesday’s conference and district showdown at Springfield Catholic High School (5-4).
After all, it was a Big 8 Conference and district game — as the enthusiasm and focus both hit new apexes on this young season.
For the Wildcats (5-3), it’s truly about how a team finishes, as they mounted a four-run sixth inning en route to their 5-2 come-from-behind win against the Irish.
“I feel like we really matured today. That is something that … you know … we’ve really been up and down our first seven, eight games,” Rogersville head coach Casey Ledl said. “We have gotten down, and I don’t know that we’ve come back. I don’t know that we’ve had that intensity to be able to come back, so, tonight it was great to see. I think it is a huge step for our maturity process.”
The Wildcats ripped off three consecutive wins to open the 2019 campaign but have sustained some early-season lumps as they prepared for their rivalry game against the Irish.
And this win may serve as a galvanizing moment of unification for Ledl’s team.
“Catholic and us — that’s always a big game. We are so close and it’s a rivalry,” Ledl said. “They are going to be good at the end. We’re going to be good at the end, so I have no doubt that both teams will get better from here.”
While the offense battled off pitches and remained disciplined, starting hurler Thomas Kane continued to keep the Irish damage to a minimum.
Kane went the distance — allowing two runs and striking out five in seven innings of work.
“Coming over here, playing a good Catholic team, I just wanted to give my team a chance to win,” Kane said. “I think I did that. [We] scratched some runs across the board. They’ve had some guys throw some good games. It feels good.”
Like a prize fight, the teams went back and forth throughout the night.
Catholic took the 1-0 lead in the fourth, before an infield error plated the Wildcats’ first run.
After the Irish went up 2-1 one inning later, the ‘Cats sent nine batters to the dish: plating four runs with two outs in the top of the sixth inning.
Drew Cornelison drove in a pair on his single.
Then, Reed Metz drove in a run, and one error later the Wildcats found themselves in control, 5-2, as they closed out the win.
The mindset and collective aggressiveness never wavered, even when the Wildcats were down 1-0 and 2-1.
“We knew it was going to be a back and forth game. Catholic is always a good game,” Kane said. “We couldn’t ride too high on the highs, and couldn’t get too low on the lows. I felt like we did that really well.”
The come-from-behind win couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the Wildcats.
And the grit and perseverance it took to pull out the win is a nice centerpiece on which to build, Ledl said.
“We really haven’t played well. Obviously, it’s Catholic, so it’s a little hyped up,” Ledl said. “That is really our mantra. We were really just wanting to play well, and we felt that if we did that, then we’d have a chance to win and we did.”
While Kane kept his Wildcats in the Irish’s rearview mirror and the offense displayed plate discipline and pitch selection down the stretch, the defense flashed the leather throughout.
“Our infield, we really felt it would be the strength of the year,” Ledl said. “I don’t know if it was the weather or what have you, but they struggled a little bit the past three games, and it is nice to see them play well.”