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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
Some 18 and a half hours removed from its worst game of the season, the Valley Christian High baseball team wanted to end the St. Paul Easter Tournament on a high note. Three pitchers combined on a one-hitter and the Crusaders cruised to a 9-2 victory over Bishop Montgomery High this past Wednesday to claim third place in the AA Division of the tournament.
Despite losing to St. Anthony High 4-3 this past Monday, V.C. still won its pool, but then was plagued by eight errors and was thumped by tournament champion John Glenn High 13-1 this past Tuesday in the semifinals. However, it would be completely different against the Knights as the Crusaders scored all nine runs from the fourth inning on.
“I would have been happier if we went 2-1 in our last three games,” said V.C. head coach Michael Dunk. “We let one get away from us against St. Anthony. But no disrespect to them; they’re well coached. John Glenn came out firing and was ready to go. We were not ready to play last night. But after the talk yesterday with the team, we told them there’s still something positive to take out of this game and they took light to that and came out ready to play today.”
Trailing 1-0, the Crusaders tied the contest in the top of the fourth when junior third baseman Lucas Koenig singled down the left field line and later scored on a wild pitch. Corey Caldwell then walked junior second baseman R.J. VanKampen gave up an infield knock to senior pitcher Jarod Trader. Both runners would advance on a wild pitch and VanKampen scored the eventual game-winner on a sacrifice fly from senior center fielder Jesse Smith.
In the next inning, the Crusaders loaded the bases with two outs and Trader, who was named to the all-tournament team, came through with a bases-clearing double to put the game away. For added measure, V.C. (10-5 overall) tacked on four more runs in the seventh.
Walks to junior left fielder Christian Bosse and Koenig and a base hit from VanKampen, also named to the all-tournament team, loaded the bases. Trader reached on an error, making it 6-1, and that was followed by a run-scoring groundout from sophomore shortstop Brett Garcia. A walk to Smith loaded the bases again and junior first baseman Zach Krosschell would reach on a fielder’s choice, allowing VanKampen to come home. Trader then scored on Bishop Montgomery’s third error of the game to round out V.C.’s scoring.
Equally as impressive as the offense was the job done by the three pitchers for V.C. Trader started and pitched into the fourth inning, allowing a two-out hit to Ethan Roberts in the second inning, walking two and striking out three. Bosse came in and threw just five pitches to strikeout Roberts to end the fourth. Garcia would work the final three innings to pick up the save, walking two and striking out two. It was the first time all season that the Crusaders had allowed one hit.
“Knowing Jarod, about when he gets to the fourth or fifth inning, he starts getting tired,” Dunk said. “He had been pitching a little sore [and] he’s just a tremendous athlete, a tremendous guy to want to come out here and compete for his team. He knows that with the arms that we have, he was ready to go and give it what he had today.”
The Crusaders will get back into Olympic League action with a home game against Maranatha High on Tuesday. Both teams are 1-1 in league and four of the five league teams have overall records north of .500.
“We’re facing familiar opponents and amazing guys who [we] know how to play against,” Dunk said. “We’re facing guys that we have charts on and we know how to pitch them and defend [against]. Just seeing familiar faces and knowing that [our] guys know how to beat them, that’s a positive momentum. They should look at this, so far 10-5, as a positive sign.”
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