MORRIS — Hits and runs have been hard to come by through the first two games of the baseball season for Morris.
After a three-hit shutout loss Tuesday at Minooka that opened the season, Morris could manage just another trio of safeties and a lone run during a hard-fought, 2-1 defeat at the hands of unbeaten Dunlap on Friday afternoon at Morris.
“We had more opportunities to score today than we had earlier in the week against Minooka,” Morris coach Todd Kein said, “but our overall approach in the box against Dunlap was certainly a step in the right direction even though we couldn’t get the win.
“I have to hang my hat on the fact that we had opportunities in this game, and so the next step for us is to find a way to cash in on those opportunities effectively moving forward.”
Dunlap (4-0) got on the board first in the top of the opening frame against Morris starting and losing senior pitcher Landon Van Dyke, who tossed four strong innings allowing just one earned run, four hits with four strikeouts and no walks. The unearned run Van Dyke surrendered came in the initial stanza when Davis Weeks reached on an error, stole second base and tallied after Graham Malcolm’s run-scoring double to right field that gave the Eagles a 1-0 advantage early on.
“What might get lost in this game is how well Landon VanDyke pitched as a starter, and he did everything that we asked him to do,” Kein said. “He threw exceptionally well, and a few things didn’t go his way today. But we needed to give him more support, and we couldn’t against a very good Dunlap baseball team.”
The Eagles made it 2-0 in the top of the fourth when Malcolm (2-3) led off with a single and eventually scored on a Jack Piper groundout.
Morris would plate its first run of the season in the home half of the fifth when senior Will Knapp singled with one out against Dunlap starting and winning pitcher Caleb Diver (4.2 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 4 K, 4 BB). Knapp then moved to second on an error and later scored after sophomore Jack Wheeler’s RBI infield groundout that cut Dunlap’s lead to 2-1 moving into the sixth inning.
Wheeler would also relieve Van Dyke on the mound for Morris, holding the Eagles harmless through the final two innings. The University of Illinois commit allowed just two hits while striking out five, which gave his team a shot down the stretch.
“I thought Jack did a great job holding us in this game after coming on for Landon,” Kein said. “We had a shot at the end but just couldn’t push a run across.”
That shot came against Dunlap relievers Ryan DiGiallionardo and Mason Burke in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Knapp reached base on an error and went to second on a wild pitch. But the hard-throwing Burke closed the door quickly by striking out the only two hitters he faced to earn his second save of the year.
“[Burke] wanted the ball. He wants it in that type of pressure situation, and he delivered today against a very good Morris ballclub,” Dunlap coach Eric Stone said. “We were fortunate to come here and earn a tough victory during a game that could’ve gone either way.”