BIG ROCK – It’s always nice to get off to a good start when the conference baseball season rolls around.
Hinckley-Big Rock and first-year coach Brad Unger did that on a chilly Monday afternoon. The Royals, behind a combined solid pitching effort from freshman Jacob Morsch and senior Luke Winkle, plus clutch hitting from senior Mitch Ruh, earned a come-from-behind 8-7 Little Ten Conference victory over Serena at Kenny Field.
“We didn’t play a clean game by any means, but any kind of win is important,” said Unger. “We made a lot of mistakes and ran ourselves out of innings on the bases, but it’s early. Morsch got out of a few jams and made some good pitches when he needed to, then Winkle came in and closed it down – that was huge.”
Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the sixth inning, H-BR pinch-hitter Dylan Youhanaie drew a walk to start. Hunter Seierstad re-entered the game and stole second, but after two outs Ruh smacked a two-strike pitch to center field to plate Seierstad and tie the game. Winkle followed with a walk, then Ruh scored on a throwing error for what proved to be the game-winning run. Ruh finished the game 3-for-4 with 2 RBI for H-BR (2-1, 1-0 LTC).
“He is the backbone of our team and that showed again today,” Unger said of Ruh. “[In the fourth] he got down in the count, was patient and hit a laser beam to right, then again in the sixth with two-strikes to drive in the tying run.”
Before Ruh’s at-bat, Serena coach Chad Baker made a mound visit to his relief pitcher Cal Mason.
“I told him to keep the ball down to [Ruh] and he did the first two strikes, but he left the third one up just enough that he could get a hold of it,” Baker said. “It would have been nice to beat a team like H-BR because we know they’re tough. We just made a couple of mistakes in that inning.”
Royals sophomore lead-off hitter Baily McQueen, who had three stolen bases, had a two-run single in the second as the hosts held a 4-0 lead. Serena (1-5, 0-1 LTC) pushed across six runs in the third and another in the fourth to make it 7-4 before the Royals tallied twice in their half.
Winkle picked up the win, striking out three of the five batters he faced. Morsch gave up just five earned runs, walked three and fanned five in five and a third innings on the mound. The Royals had eight hits, drew six walks, and as a team stole 10 bases in 10 attempts.
“Offensively we found ways to get on base,” Unger said. “We want to be aggressive. We are going for extra bases until the opponent forces us to stop and the guys did a great job today in that regard. We were able to take advantage of their mistakes, get them on, get them over and get them in.”