SYCAMORE – Burlington Central took the lead with two outs in the top of the fourth inning, and as they had at all game, Sycamore answered back with two outs in the bottom of the frame.
Owen Piazza ripped a two-out double to score Conner Williar and Joey Puleo as Sycamore retook the lead and wouldn’t surrender it again in an eventual 6-5 win Tuesday.
“I know last year there were some times we didn’t get the job done with two outs,” Piazza said. “It’s nice to see that at the beginning of the season, doing that already, making the most of our at-bats.”
Given nine of the game’s 11 runs were scored with two outs, the Rockets (0-2) couldn’t get a two-out hit when they needed one most, leaving the potential tying run 90 feet away off of Tommy Townsend, who pitched three innings of one-run relief for Sycamore (1-0).
“When you’re down like that into the last inning, if you can get the tying run into scoring position you give your hitters the chance to make that play,” Burlington Central coach Kyle Nelson said. “Braden [Lowitzki] hit a ball pretty hard, just right at the shortstop. We take care of a few things earlier in the game and that doesn’t matter as much.”
In the top of the seventh, Central had a chance to tie it when Andrew Payton led the inning off with a double, then Mckade Naus hit a slow roller up the third baseline, putting runners on the corners with two outs. But Townsend induced Lowitzki to line out to Addison Peck to end the game.
Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said considering how little his team has been outside this year, he was pleased with the performance, even though he added the team is clearly not in midseason form yet. Temperatures in the 40s and strong winds also were factors.
“We’ve only had one practice outside all year, and that was yesterday,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s always colder out here than what the Weather Channel says just because there’s nothing to block the wind out here and it was 15 to 20 miles per hour blowing straight in.”
The Spartans scored in the first off Central starter Michael Person. Townsend and Kyle Hartmann each singled with two outs to put runners at the corners. Collin Severson, running for Hartmann, got into a rundown and gave Townsend enough time to score before he was tagged out, giving the Spartans a lead.
“That’s a play right there we practice often defensively,” Nelson said. “Our guys weren’t just aggressive coming to get the baseball with two outs. If we make that play I think it turns the momentum there.”
The Spartans added a run in the second on a two-out single by Hunter Birtz that plated Conner Williar, who reached on a triple. The lead grew to 3-0 on a two-out single by Hartmann that scored Kiefer Tarnoki.
Cavanuagh lifted starter Jimmy Amptmann after three innings of no-hit ball. He stuck out seven, walked four and hit a batter. Lucas Winburn came on in relief and allowed four runs in the fourth as the Rockets retook the lead. After Person singles home Jacob Johnson with two outs, Winburn walked four straight then hit a batter as Central took a 4-3 lead.
Piazza’s hit gave the Spartans the lead back a half inning later, allowing Townsend to enter with the lead in the fifth to preserve the win, which went to Winburn. Townsend struck out four, walked none and scattered four hits.
Sycamore got hits in five of their first seven at-bats with two outs, driving in four.
“I thought we did a lot of good things with two outs,” Cavanaugh said. “We scored in the first, second and third innings all with two outs. That’s all you can really hope for today is to hit singles.”
The Rockets outhit the Spartans 7-6. Hartmann had two hits for the Spartans and Andrew Payton had two for Central.
Piazza said it was a good start to the year.
“Jimmy came out and threw really well for us,” Piazza said. “We came out, and obviously we all wanted the win today. We just came together really well to get it.”