by Rob Grubbs & Christopher Dunn
It wasn’t without drama, but McIntosh is advancing to the second round of the baseball playoffs with a sweep of the South Effingham Mustangs Wednesday afternoon.
The Chiefs grabbed early momentum in the series with a thrilling 6-5 walk-off win.
Ty Butler drew first blood for McIntosh with a two-run home run off the school building in the bottom of the 2nd. Butler extended the lead to 3-1 in the 4th, driving home Ryder Wagenknecht.
The Mustangs struggled to make solid contact off McIntosh starter Braxton Roop early in the game. They got a man on in the 1st via a walk, but he would later be thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch. They scratched out their first run in the top of the 3rd on a sac fly, the only one they could muster until their backs were against the wall.
McIntosh padded the lead in the bottom half of the 5th with a two-out rally. Catcher Ryan Sanders singled, and his courtesy runner, Jacob Woods, moved around on a wild pitch. Burton Hahn was plunked to chase the Mustang starter, but his replacement didn’t fare any better, walking the bases loaded. Roop made them pay, scorching a two-run single to push the lead to 5-1.
The Mustangs chased Roop from the game after scoring a run and putting two on with one out in the top of the 7th. Andrew Pinckney came in from the outfield, but couldn’t get an out and walked in a run. Landon Pope took his turn and fared the same, plunking a batter to make it a one-run game.
Looking to break the game wide open, the Mustangs scorched the ball to short, where Wagenknecht flipped it to Blake Summers at second for the force. The Mustangs plated the tying run during the turn and tried to take the lead as the throw to first was not in time for the double play, but Jack Brown fired a bullet home to Sanders, who applied the tag just in time for the out.
Deep into their pen, the Chiefs wanted to end the game fast, and they got it done in the bottom half. With two outs, Hahn sent a screamer bouncing over the shortstop’s head. The outfielder misplayed the ball, and Hahn turned on the jets, racing all the way to third base to set the table. Pope strode to the plate for the first time and hit a slow roller to short. Rushing to beat Pope, who was hustling down the line, the short stop bobbled the ball away, allowing the winning run to the plate.
After the excitement of game 1, the Chiefs went to their ace in Ty Butler to close the series out. McIntosh loaded the bases in the top of the 1st but couldn’t push a run across. South Effingham, looking for any advantage they could find, got their leadoff batter on via a bunt and moved him over to third after an error and a sacrifice. With one out and the runner at third, Butler got a hard grounder to third that Jack Bukowski fielded cleanly and came home. In the ensuing rundown there was a collision in the base path and the runner was awarded home for obstruction.
Undaunted, Butler kept his team in the game. He is a quick worker which helps teammates stay alert. The Chiefs took their first lead in the top of the 3rd with back-to-back extra base hits from Ryan Sanders and Jack Brown to score two.
Things got shaky in the bottom of the 4th. Butler developed a muscle cramp and was falling off the mound after each delivery. Nursing a one-run lead with the bases loaded and not wanting to sacrifice his game three starter if needed, Coach Tom Kelley signaled for Sanders to pitch, and he was nothing short of spectacular. His first pitch was a line drive back to the mound that he caught and flipped to first for the double play. He followed that with a strikeout to end the threat, and the legend was born.
The Chiefs added three more insurance runs, one on a double by Hahn and two more by their new star pitcher, Sanders, on a two-out double.
Andrew Villiger came in to close the game and sweep the series.
All the talk afterwards was about Sanders.
“We knew he could throw strikes with some velocity, and we know he is a competitor,” said Kelley. “We needed someone to come in and get us some outs, and we knew he was not going to walk anyone. He came in a did a great job. If we don’t get that, it’s a totally different game.”
Next up for the Chiefs will be road trip to Ola High School, and they might just have a secret weapon to break out when a relief pitcher is needed.
To see more photos from game one, click here.