KEWANEE — Until the fifth inning, the Class 2A Annawan-Wethersfield Regional final was up for grabs Monday.
However, the No. 3-ranked St. Bede baseball team committed its only two errors of the game in the fifth inning, which allowed No. 2 Alleman to score two runs and win the championship 5-3.
“Giving them extra outs in the fifth inning really hurt us,” SBA coach Bill Booker said. “It was a 3-3 game going in and we knew before that we needed to execute — we didn’t. In the fifth inning, we kicked the ball around, walked a guy and they took full advantage of that.
“In baseball, you don’t always win, sometimes you just lose. We left nine guys on base tonight. We couldn’t get a key hit. We didn’t execute the way we wanted to. That’s the story of a 5-3 loss in a regional championship. Give Alleman credit, but I would like to think it was ours for the taking but we didn’t execute.”
The scoring started in the bottom of the first inning when Alleman scored two runs on Bruins starting pitcher Dylan Grammer and the defense.
However, SBA retaliated with three runs in the top of the second.
Kaile Williams was hit by a pitch and Luke Story took first on one of Alleman’s three errors in the game to put runners on first and second. Jared Rouse, the Bruins’ No. 9 hitter, hit an RBI double scoring Williams.
Back to the top of the order, Mateo Sanchez and Kane Clendenen each hit an RBI single scoring Story and Rouse to give the Bruins a 3-2 advantage.
In the bottom of the third, Alleman tied the game at 3-3. Nate Sheets hit a lead-off double and Alleman followed with a walk, a fielder’s choice and then another walk to load the bases.
Sheets scored the tying run on the third walk of the inning.
“(Grammer) wasn’t sharp today. He wasn’t his best,” Booker said. “He’s slow, slower and slowest. We knew coming in that we were going to have to hit our spots. We didn’t want (Chase VanDerGinst, who SBA walked three times, twice intentionally) to beat us. He’s a pretty good player going to Western Illinois University.
“We tried to stick to our game plan and for the most part it worked. We played good defense and were ahead of the hitters.”
The Bruins had the bases loaded in the fourth and had two guys on base to start the fifth and sixth, respectively, but were not able to manufacture runs. Alleman turned the Bruins’ errors in the fifth into two runs to give the Pioneers (24-13) the insurance they needed for the regional championship.
Grammer took the loss on four hits, five earned runs, three strikeouts and six walks in four innings of work.
Jono Berry was the winning pitcher for AHS as he allowed six hits, three runs — one earned — struck out seven and walked three.
“Our guys made some plays today,” said Pioneers coach Jerry Burkhead, who has led AHS to three straight regional plaques. “We have some four-year seniors on this team. Jono is one of them. That was his sixth postseason start. We knew he was going to come out and he was going to give us a chance. He had one tough inning and then he beared down from there, which shows his maturity.
“I like that we turned the page. It’s a product of playing 37 games and playing in the Western Big 6 (Conference). We face tough competition all season long. We were able to turn the page when we needed to and we got it done.”
Monday’s regional final left a bad taste in the mouth’s of Booker and the Bruins.
However, the veteran coach is still proud of the season his club had.
“We finished 17-11 and we fell short of our goals, but I think for these seniors it was the first time as upperclassmen that they were playing for a championship,” Booker said. “They fell short today, but they competed.
“Give credit to Alleman, but I’d like to have a couple of at-bats back and a couple of balls back that were hit because I think we’d be right in this one.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.