OTTAWA — Sometimes it's the guys you don't expect, especially the little guys, who do the most damage.
Senior Kyle Cook, the Marquette Academy baseball team's diminutive left fielder and No. 9 hitter, came up huge for the Crusaders in Wednesday afternoon's Class 1A Regional opener against Gardner-South Wilmington, going 2-for-3 with a pair of triples, two runs scored, four runs batted in and a stolen base to spark the home team to a lopsided 14-1 victory in just five innings here at Masinelli Field.
While 6-foot-5 starting pitcher John Thompson and 6-foot-3 reliever Shane Reynolds were combining to hold the Panthers to one unearned run and five hits, it was the bottom third of the Cru order that largely scuttled the visitors. Cook and the Cru's 7 and 8 hitters, Jack Snook and Nick Melvin, combined for six of MA's eight hits, eight of its runs and eight of its 12 RBIs in the win, which sends Marquette (27-2) into Saturday afternoon's regional title game against the winner of today's 4:30 p.m. contest between Serena and Princeville at Masinelli.
"I'm basically a double lead-off ... but I think other teams see me and underestimate me," said Cook, who's listed on MA's football roster as 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds, "and really underestimate all No. 9 hitters a lot ... We at the bottom of the order take a lot of pride being as productive was we can, so it feels good when we have a good day like today."
After an unearned run in the first, Thompson retired 11 of the next 14 hitters he faced. Meanwhile, a one-out single by Nick Melvin in the home second was followed by a Cook line drive that the GSW right fielder lost in the sun and missed a leaping try. Cook reached third with a triple and kept running to score when the throw in was mishandled for a 3-1 Cru edge.
Marquette then exploded for six runs in the third and five in the fourth to make the game a laugher. In the former, a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Killelea, an RBI single by Snook and a run-scoring double by Nick Melvin, a fielder's choice and an RBI infield hit by Nate Melvin completed the frame. In the fourth, runs scored on a Snook double, a Nick Melvin grounder, a two-run triple to deep right-center by Cook and a sac fly by Komater.
"I thought Cookie squared the ball up well today," said Marquette coach Todd Hopkins, "and so did Tank (Michael Killelea), Jack and Nick. They all hit the ball hard at the bottom of the order and that's good to see.
"We haven't seen a pitcher like (GSW starter Chris Ruiz) since the Roanoke game, but the kids adjusted. We hit some balls hard, played small ball when we needed to, stole some bases and kept the pressure on them when we got the lead. John settled in and Shane came in and did his job. It doesn't matter how you win or what the score is, playing on Saturday is what matters, like we've been preaching to them all year. We also know we're going to face a tough team now that we're there."
MA used five walks issued by pitchers Ruiz and Matthew Wepperecht and three errors committed behind them to net its total, while managing just five hits — all singles — off Thompson and Reynolds.
"We had to use Kade (Kociss) and Joey (Morales) on Monday," said GSW coach Allen Wills, "and both threw 80-90 pitches in a 11-10, 10-inning win. It would have been nice to have one of them today, but we had to get here first. I had complete confidence in Chris, who's not overpowering but keeps guys off balance with a lot of the junk he throws up there ... If we had made some plays behind him, maybe he could have gone longer."
At Masinelli Field, Ottawa
Marquette 14, Gardner-South Wilmington 1 (5 inn.)
GSW (1) — Wozniak ss 3-0-1-0, Watson c 3-0-0-0, Wepperecht 1b-p 3-0-0-0, Morales 3b 2-0-1-0, Hansen dh 2-0-0-0, Kociss cf 0-0-0-0, Faletti rf 2-0-1-0, Ruiz p 1-0-0-0, Landry cr-rf 1-1-0-0, Steichen lf-1b 1-0-1-0, Perkins 2b 1-0-0-0. Totals 19-1-4-0.
MARQUETTE (14) — Na. Melvin ss 4-1-1-1, Couch 2b 0-0-0-0, Komater cf 2-1-1-2, Foster 3b 2-1-0-0, McAlpine 3b 0-0-0-0, Dyche c 1-2-0-0, Killelea 1b 2-1-0-1, Price 1b 0-0-0-0, Snook rf 3-2-2-2, Ni. Melvin dh 3-3-2-2, Thompson p 0-0-0-0, Reynolds p 0-0-0-0, Cook lf 3-3-2-4. Totals 19-14-8-12.
GSW (11-11) 100 00 — 1 4 3
Marquette (27-2) 126 5x — 14 8 1
LOB - GSW 5, Marquette 5. 2B - Snook, Ni. Melvin. 3B - Cook 2. SB - Watson, Faletti, Komater 2, Dyche, Ni. Melvin, Cook. SAC - Couch. SF - Komater, Killelea. HBP - Couch, Dyche (by Ruiz).
GSW ip r er h bb k
Ruiz (L) 2.1 9 8 6 3 1
Wepperecht 1.2 5 5 2 2 1
Thompson (W) 4.0 1 0 4 0 4
Reynolds 1.0 0 0 1 1 1