OTTAWA — Coming off Tuesday's shutout loss at Sterling, Ottawa was hoping to get off to a solid start Thursday afternoon at King Field against the Warriors.
The Pirates (8-7, 2-3) did just that by scoring five times in the first and led 7-1 after four, but Sterling battled back to tie the game twice and take its first lead in the seventh. The hosts pushed across the tying tally to force extra frames and then scored with one out in the bottom of the ninth to capture a 10-9 Northern Illinois Big 12 West Division triumph and give the Warriors (11-5, 4-1) their first league loss.
The previously-scheduled second game of the doubleheader was moved to Friday at 4:30 p.m.
"How about that game?" said Ottawa coach Tom Hart with a smile. "You saw about it all, from routine popups that were lost in the sun, an unbelievable catch in left field by their guy and a bloop two-out hit that lands just inside the left-field foul line in the top of the seventh to give them the lead.
"This game is wild and fun. I'm glad we came out on top."
Ottawa, which failed to bring home the winning run in the seventh despite having the bases loaded and none out, didn't squander that chance in the ninth. John Bruner led off the final half inning with a bloop single to center off losing pitcher Vincent Padilla. Winning pitcher Ben Lundy then looped a single to the same spot one out later, and pinch hitter Alex Stevenson drew a walk to fill the bags full of Pirates.
No. 9 hitter Matt Mezel followed with a groundball to shortstop, but the play was bobbled to allow pinch runner Brad Ruger to come across for the game-winner.
"If you put the ball in play you never know what might happen," said Hart. "Even if the shortstop would have fielded that ball clean, it was still going to be a bang-bang play at home with a perfect throw. It was a tough play to make, for sure."
Sterling grabbed a one-run lead in the first on an RBI fielder's choice by Nolan Sullivan off OHS starter Tyler Carson. The hosts responded in their half with Nathan Weitzel leading off with a double, followed by an RBI single from Jared Herzog, two-run base hit by Logan Cheatham and an RBI groundout by Lundy. A Sterling outfield error helped increase the count to 5-1 to end the first, and an error after fourth-inning safeties by Weitzel and Mezel made it 7-1.
"It was exciting to see us jump out for five," said Hart. "It's rare to get five runs in an inning, but for us to do it in the very first inning was a confidence boost. It helped (Carson) settle down and settle in and know that a mistake here or there doesn't hurt."
Sterling then bounced back, plating two in the fifth, four in the sixth, and in the seventh scored the tying run on an RBI double by Tyler Willman and the go-ahead run on the aforementioned hit inside the left-field line. The Pirates knotted things up in the bottom half when Herzog walked, went to second on a wild pitch and scored when Cheatham's sacrifice bunt was thrown away.
"Ottawa came out battling right away, putting the ball in play and putting the pressure on us," said Sterling coach Nick Pepper. "They did a nice job of getting on top and putting us in a hole early, but I was proud of my guys for coming back. They kept fighting, chipping away and extended the game."
Lundy, after allowing the pair of runs in the seventh, retired all six batters he faced in the final two innings. Wyatt Hill had three hits and an RBI, while Weitzel and Cheatham finished with two hits each.
"When you go nine innings, you're going to use a lot of your bench," Hart said. "It was a quality team win, a lot of guys contributed in some way, shape or form. There were plenty of highlight moments tonight, but we are celebrating a win against a quality opponent. They won the conference last year and are the favorites again, so it's exciting to give them their first loss in conference, because we know how good they really are."
At King Field, Ottawa
Ottawa 10, Sterling 9 (9 inn.)
STERLING (9) — Hay lf 5-2-2-0, C. Willman 6-2-0-0, Morse c 3-0-1-0, Wolf cr 0-1-0-0, T. Willman 3b 4-2-2-1, Sullivan 1b 5-1-3-3, Campos lf 4-0-0-1, Kessler pr 0-1-0-0, Escalante 2b 4-0-0-0, Alston cf 3-0-1-3, Bryant p 5-0-2-0, Bailey p 0-0-0-0, Padilla p 0-0-0-0. Totals 39-9-11-8.
OTTAWA (10) — Weitzel 2b/p/ss 5-2-2-0, Hill dh/2b 5-0-3-1, Carson p 0-0-0-0, Doermann p 0-0-0-0, Sauvegeau 1b 5-1-0-0, Herzog cf 4-2-1-1, Bruner 3b 3-1-1-0, Ruger cr/pr 0-2-0-0, Cheatham lf 4-0-2-2, Lundy ss/p 4-1-1-1, Wendt rf 4-1-1-0, Stevenson ph 0-0-0-0, Mezel c 4-0-1-0. Totals 38-10-12-5.
Sterling (11-5, 4-1) 100 024 200 — 9 11 4
Ottawa (8-7, 2-3) 500 201 101 — 10 12 5
GIDP — Sauvegeau. LOB — Sterling 12, Ottawa 10. 2B — Morse, T. Willman, Weitzel, Cheatham. SB — Hay, C. Willman, Morse, Alston, Bryant 2, Hill. SAC — Cheatham, Mezel. SF — Alston. HBP — Hay (by Doermann), Escalante (by Weitzel).
Sterling ip r er h bb k
Bryant 5.1 8 5 9 1 2
Bailey 0.2 1 0 1 2 0
Padilla (L) 2.1 1 0 2 2 4
Carson 4.2 3 2 6 4 4
Doermann 0.1 2 1 0 0 1
Weitzel 1.0 2 0 2 1 0
Lundy (W) 3.0 2 2 3 1 3
One out when winning run scored