On a windy day at GCS Ballpark when nearly every fly ball was an adventure, the final chapter Monday worked out well for the Mater Dei Knights.
Brady Rakers’ two-out fly ball to right in the bottom of the seventh was mishandled and the Knights won their sixth in a row and 10th in 11 games, knocking off the rival Central Cougars 6-5. Rakers’ hit scored his brother Will Rakers, who led off the inning with a walk.
“When he hit it, I thought it was hit a lot better than what it ended up,” Mater Dei coach Travis Gebke said of Rakers’ line drive to right that eluded Central’s Alex Deien. “I think it just kind of got caught in the crosswind here.”
Of more concern to Central coach Kevin Crask was his team’s inability to hold on to a 5-1 lead and stranding six baserunners, several in excellent scoring position. The Cougars failed to score in the fourth despite loading the bases with one out.
“That’s the disappointing part, not a kid missing a fly ball,” said Crask, whose 13-13 club is seeded second behind top-seeded Mater Dei (17-8) at the Class 2A Greenville Regional. “It’s leaving guys in scoring position that could have given us enough runs to win the ballgame.”
Trailing 5-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth, Mater Dei finally broke through against Central starter Carter Truong when Lucas Deimeke unloaded on an inside pitch and belted a two-run homer to left that cut the deficit to 5-4.
It was Deimeke’s first homer this season and came after an early strikeout that was followed by being hit by a pitch.
“He gets a little frustrated at times emotion-wise,” Gebke said of Deimeke, second on the team with 23 RBIs. “He’s a competitor and we like that aspect of it, but like we tell him keep it reined in so that he can not give at-bats away. He was frustrated on two (of them), then just kind bowed up and put a real good swing on that next one. You saw the result.”
A lot of things had to happen for the Knights to score the tying run in the sixth. Josh Haberer singled and went to second on a wild pitch before being replaced by pinch-runner Connor Burton. Burton went to third on a passed ball, then scored when Mater Dei leadoff man Bryce Beckmann beat out a ground ball to third, diving in safely at first on a headfirst slide.
“It wasn’t how we scripted it up,” Gebke said. “We had a little trouble early on getting the bats going. Like we just told them in the huddle, the big thing is you come away with a win. Whether you win or lose, you just want to play well going into the regional and that’s kind of been our focal point.”
Mater Dei’s Arkansas State recruit Zach Haake had an RBI single in the third and an RBI triple in the fifth.
“I’m very proud of the way the kids played,” Crask said. “We hit the ball really well and were able to put runs up. Just give credit to Mater Dei, they were able to get big hits at the right time.”
Truong pitched well, limiting Mater Dei to five hits and two runs before the sixth.
“Carter kept us in the ballgame,” Crask said. “I couldn’t ask any more from him.”
Central jumped on Mater Dei starter Zack Deiters for four runs in the second inning.
Ryan Kuper had a two-out, two-run double and Brady Rakers misplayed Houston Kruse’s single to center. The ball rolled to the fence as Kuper scored and Kruse circled the bases. Central added another run in the fifth before the Knights won it with a late rally.
Mater Dei reliever Kyle Eversgerd (3-4), who nearly pitched a no-hitter against Central last season to get the win in Sauget, got the win with 3 2/3 strong relief innings. He allowed two hits and one run.