Only five hits were enough to give Forreston a sectional championship on Saturday.
On a hot Memorial Day at the 1A Benedictine University supersectional, the Cardinals’ bats weren’t quite as sizzling. However, this time it mattered in a 2-1, nine-inning loss to Aurora Christian.
Two days removed from a 1-0 win over Aquin at the River Ridge Sectional final, the Cardinals (28-3) could only muster three hits against Eagles pitchers Jake Kuntzendorf and Hunter Thompson – the former baffling hitters in the strike zone for 13 strikeouts.
In a game that otherwise featured stellar pitching and defense, the Cardinals’ offense proved to be too much of a let down.
“They hit the ball better than we did all game,” Cardinals coach Mike McClellan said. “We didn’t compete at the plate like we needed to; not just in the number of hits, but we had way too many strikeouts.”
“We could have made so many opportunities to score, and I could have done better pitching myself,” Cardinals starting pitcher Brandon Schneiderman said. “We wanted to come out and battle to win the game, but we couldn’t hit the ball.”
Aurora Christian (32-2) rapped out 12 hits against Schneiderman for the first four innings, and Josh Flick the rest of the game – the final hit coming from Clark Turek, whose ninth-inning single to deep right-center field scored MJ Stavola from third base.
Turek was 0-for-4 and reached on a pair of fielder’s choices, but saw a 1-2 pitch from Flick and connected in his fifth at-bat.
“We had so many opportunities to get those runs in same situations,” Turek said. “Before, I was on my front foot, and I just tried to stay back and got it to right-center.”
The Eagles had left 12 men on base before Turek’s hit, including three in the fifth inning. With bases loaded and the game tied at one, Turek hit a soft ground ball to Flick, who threw to home to try to force Eric Hernandez out.
Cardinals catcher Jaron Groshans caught the ball, but appeared to have caught the ball while his foot leapt off the plate. The home plate umpire called a force out, to deny a run from scoring.
Groshans came up big once more to end the sixth inning, tagging out Trey Madsen at the plate after a Hernandez single.
“I just said, ‘This time he’s not scoring, I don’t care if I get hit or not,’” Groshans said.
Sam Tickel hit his second double of the game in the seventh inning with one out, and Kuntzendorf – the No. 4 hitter – was intentionally walked. Turek hit into his second fielder’s choice, and Flick got Zavasnick to strike out looking to quell the rally.
The Eagles once more had two on with one out in the eighth inning, but the rally ended with a double play. Hernandez hit a line drive to Hayden Singley at second base, who doubled off courtesy runner Josh Smoot to end the inning.
Forreston made a similar double play late in Saturday’s win over Aquin.
“We played defense well, but we weren’t us at the plate,” Groshans said. “We should have been more aggressive and swung more at the outside pitch. We left a couple of them out there.”
“Pitching and defense was more than good enough to win against any team we’ve played,” McClellan said. “We just needed to hit a little better.”
Kuntzendorf struck out the game’s first three batters, and Hernandez followed by hitting a home run down the right field line and over the taller-than-normal outfield fence for a quick 1-0 lead.
Single and Flick walked in the third inning, and with both on base and one out, Mitch Heinz hit a line drive single to right field to plate Singley and tie the game.
Forreston, who has won 109 games over the past 4 years, left one runner on in the fourth, seventh, and ninth innings.
“We’ve had seniors put up numbers that no one’s ever put up here,” McClellan said. “There’s nothing but positive when you look at the whole season. It’s hard to think about that [after the game], but we had a great, outstanding season, top to bottom. Our younger guys got better, our older guys turned into leaders. All of the things that needed to happen, happened.”
1A Benedictine Supersectional
Aurora Christian 2, Forreston 1 (9 inn.)
Star of the game: Jake Kuntzendorf, AC, 7 IP, 1 R (earned), 3 H, 13 SO, sac fly in 9th inning
Key performers: Clark Turek, AC, game-winning single; Sam Tickel, AC, 4-for-5, 2 doubles; Mitch Heinz, Forreston, 1-for-4, RBI; Eric Hernandez, AC, 2-for-4, HR