BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – A six-run fourth inning that started with a hit-batsman and two errors gave the Fort Madison Bloodhounds what they needed to down Holy Trinity 6-1 on Wednesday at South Park.
Junior Jordyn Gerdes took a pitch off his back to start the top of the fourth. Brandon Reichelt fanned, but HTC’s Kaden Medland and Garrett Hannum both had infield errors. Trey Kuntz, pinch running for Gerdes, swiped second and then took third on the Medland error. Hannum then had a ball go under his glove at second allowing Kuntz to score. Jace Burgher and Lennon Barker got aboard with the errors. Tony Fortado then lined a single to center scoring Burgher.
HTC’s Cole Thornton, who had gone three innings surrendering just a walk and Dayne Cordray double in the third, was pulled by HTC head coach Albert Schinstock after the Fortado single in favor of Jason Thurman. Thurman gave up a two RBI single to Gavin Wiseman and then a walk to Landes Williams. Cordray hit into a fielder’s choice at third forcing Wiseman and then Parker Denning singled to shallow center to score Williams and move Cordray to third.
With Denning at first and Cordray at third, the Hounds sent Denning to draw a throw and Cordray broke on the throw to second. Denning got caught in a run down and was tagged out at first, but Cordray had gotten across the plate prior to the tag.
“We’d been working on that play…early break is what we call it, a ton in practice on Tuesday and the kids just executed it perfectly,” FMHS head coach Ken Steeples said after the game.
Schinstock said that inning was the difference in the game.
“It was just that one bad inning,” Schinstock said. “That’s what got us down.”
Schinstock was wearing the pink arm band with Abby Denning’s name on it. Denning, a 14-year-old HTC student, was killed in an ATV accident Sunday morning. The game was moved to 8 p.m. to allow the community and team to attend the funeral Wednesday evening.
Thurman then quieted the Hound bats putting them down in order in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings. But Gerdes was still dealing for Fort Madison allowing only two base runners in the Crusaders’ halves of the fourth, fifth, and sixth.
The Crusaders got a little offense going in the bottom half of the seventh when Collin Thornton singled up the middle and Vason Thurman was plunked by Gerdes in the next at bat to put runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Medland then hit a ground back to Gerdes who bobbled the ball but recovered and threw to Cordray at second who quickly fired over to first to get Medland in the double play. Thornton moved to third on the play.
Garrett Hannum then reached on an error when Barker mishandled Hannum’s grounder to third. Hannum advanced to second on a wild pitch, prompting a visit from Steeples to the mound. Chandler Rung then reached when his grounder to first was mishandled to put runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs, but Zander Schweiss hit a squibber down the first base line that Gerdes was able to field cleanly and fire to first to end the game.
Steeples said the sixth inning was the biggest single inning output of the year for the Hounds.
“It was a real team effort. We put the ball in play and we ran the bases well. We did stuff offensively but we let up a bit. I told them one of the things we need to do is extend the lead and we didn’t get that done,” Steeples said.
He said he let Gerdes go the full game which is something this year’s pitchers haven’t done a lot.
“He pitched great. He ran out of gas late, but we haven’t run our pitchers 70 pitches much, but we had Dayne ready to go if we needed him.”
Schinstock was without two starters – Kyle Bredemeyer, who was out for Denning’s service, and Reed Fehseke who had to sit out after being ejected from Tuesday night’s game against West Burlington.
He said this week has been hard on the team going into the post season, but the Crusaders have just two regular season games left in the next seven days so they should be able to regroup.
“If you’d have asked me a week ago it would have been great. We came into this week thinking we could win three of the four and here we are 0-3.”
The Crusaders, now 7-14, host Highland Thursday night and then travel to Keokuk next Thursday to end the regular season. District play starts the following week.
The Hounds improve to 3-13 on the season and host Centerville on Friday night.