Baseball: Seneca tips Streator 5-4 on walk-off 8th-inning single by Josh Lucas

Fighting Irish score twice in bottom of 7th to tie game

Seneca's Josh Lucas smacks a hit to score a run against Streator on Friday, April 19, 2024 at Seneca High School.

SENECA – The Seneca baseball team was down to its last two outs trailing Streator by a pair of runs in Friday’s game.

But the Fighting Irish took advantage of two costly errors by the Bulldogs to tie the contest in the bottom of the seventh, then used a walk-off single by Josh Lucas in the bottom of the eighth to steal a 5-4 victory.

“It was just a fastball right down the middle,” said Lucas, who also began the seventh-inning rally by drawing a walk and had given his team a 2-1 lead in the second on a sacrifice fly. “I was really seeing the ball well today. I also think that I had a good mindset in each at-bat I had. I was just picturing in my head having success before every pitch, and things worked out pretty well.

“It wasn’t looking too great there, but the guys ahead of me in the lineup were able to make some things happen, and we were able to get a nice win on a nice comeback.”

“I just had that gut feeling Josh (Lucas) was going to come through there and I wanted to make sure when he did, we had a guy in scoring position. Josh had good swings all day and that last one was the best one.”

—  Tim Brungard, Seneca baseball coach

In the Seneca eighth, Nate Othon poked a one-out single off Streator pitcher Landen Cook but was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder by Aiden Vilcek. Vilcek then stole second before the next pitch was lined into right-center off the bat of Lucas to end the game.

Chase Buis (0 H, 2 BB, 4 K) earned the win after firing two innings of scoreless relief of starter Paxton Giertz (6 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 9 K).

“For a day where our bats for the most part weren’t alive, our pitching kept us in it,” Seneca coach Tim Brungard said, his club now 14-5 on the season. “Paxton didn’t have his best stuff today, but it was good enough stuff to keep us within striking distance. While Josh Lucas came up with the big hit for us, we were in that position to have that happen in part due to Chase coming on and really pitching well the final two innings. His strikeout to end the top of the eighth really gave us momentum.

“Vilcek got a great jump to steal second, and we just had to get him to second there with two outs. I just had that gut feeling Josh was going to come through there, and I wanted to make sure when he did, we had a guy in scoring position. Josh had good swings all day, and that last one was the best one.”

Streator grabbed the lead in the first when Jake Hagie walked, moved to second on a single by Cole Winterrowd, to third on a walk by Noah Camp and scored on a passed ball. Then after the hosts scored twice in the second, the Bulldogs tied the game in the fourth on a two-out, RBI single by Joe Hoekstra, then retook the lead in the fifth on another run-scoring passed ball and Landon Muntz being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

In the Seneca seventh, Lucas walked with one out, then after a popout, a dropped throw at first on a grounder by Brody Rademacher and an RBI single down the right field line by Giertz made it 4-3. Kenny Daggett followed with a ground ball to second that was misplayed to allow Rademacher to touch home plate to tie the game at 4.

Giertz and Othon both finished with a pair of hits to lead Seneca. Keegan Angelico doubled for one of Streator’s four hits.

Cook (4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K) suffered the tough-luck loss in relief of Landon Muntz (3 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K).

“I thought our pitching overall was pretty good today, and our defense was as well until the seventh inning when we gave Seneca five outs,” Streator coach Beau Albert said, his squad falling to 7-11. “We made a couple errors there in the seventh and Seneca took advantage of them. That’s baseball sometimes. We just weren’t able to get that final out to close it out. That said, you win as a team, and you lose as a team.

“I felt like we had pretty good at-bats today against [Giertz] but just couldn’t seem to really square anything up against [Buis]. We had a few innings early in the game where we left some guys on in scoring position and sometimes those things come back to bite you. That was the case for us today.”

Seneca is scheduled to host Dwight in a Tri-County Conference game on Monday, while Streator will be at Manteno in an Illinois Central Eight Conference game.

Streator's Clay Christoff tags out Seneca's Nathan Neal while rounding third base on Friday, April 19, 2024 at Seneca High School.
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