By Jake Thompson
INDIANAPOLIS — With a huge effort in the fourth inning Thursday night, the Covenant Christian baseball team put up six runs and took a 10-2 lead over the visiting Bethesda Christian Patriots.
That effort took the wind out of the Patriots’ sails as the Warriors went on to 10-run rule Bethesda in the bottom of the fifth, 13-3.
One factor was key to the victory, something the Warriors simply were not doing early in the contest.
“We started relaxing and swinging the bat late in the game,” Covenant coach Andy Gossel said. “The first couple of innings they were looking for perfect pitches and I just asked them to move runners, get a sacrifice fly, and look for balls early in the count.”
Covenant pitcher Grayson Prather pitched four solid innings, striking out six while giving up two hits.
“He struggled a bit with his command in the zone and when he worked ahead in the count he cruised, but he battled that all night long,” Gossel said. “If he can relax and stay focused he will do great.”
Cory Uhls closed for the Warriors, giving up one run in the top of the fifth before driving in the winning runs in the bottom of the inning.
“Overall, he did a great job and did what he was supposed to do,” Gossel said. “He struggled a bit at the plate in the opener and Cory was itching for that last at-bat.”
Bethesda kept the contest close for the better part of three innings before the Warriors’ big fourth inning shut down any thought of a comeback.
John Mlagan’s single to start the first allowed him to reach home after two passed balls/wild pitches by Grayson and catcher Jake LaBounty and Bethesda led, 1-0.
The Patriots would not score again until the fourth as Eric Poynter’s sacrifice fly brought in Brandon Gill. Gill led the Patriots from the plate, going 2 for 3 on the night with a single and double.
“We came out and stayed with them the first three innings before things fell a part a bit in the fourth,” Bethesda coach John Mlagan said. “Gill has come a long way and we are looking for him to come out and do something after a tough night on Tuesday.”
At that point, Bethesda trailed 4-2 headed to the bottom of the fourth. Pitcher Nathan Buck walked the first two Covenant batters before his defense pulled down two pop ups.
After that, the floodgates opened and Covenant went through its order, scoring six runs before Mlagan switched pitchers.
“I hesitated making a change there and maybe waited a little too long and should have made it sooner,” Mlagan said.
Covenant finished the night with 11 hits and one error. LaBounty led the Warriors form the plate, going 4 for 4 with two doubles and two singles.
Covenant’s output at the plate was a welcome sight for Gossel, as his team needed some momentum as they have six away games in the next week.
“Going in to face city teams we judge ourselves against, it will be great to see where our team is at,” Gossel said. “The first inning tonight was the only inning we’ve played in so far that we’ve not scored a run in and that’s our goal; score at least one run every inning.”