By Anthony Jones
Since a 5-1 loss to O’Fallon on April 1, not much has been able to slow down Triad baseball. The team has gone on to win 9 straight and has only played from behind once over that stretch.
This past week was another key part to this hot streak, with the Knights recording three more wins.
The first two of these came on April 12, with Triad hosting the Waterloo Bulldogs. Their first Mississippi Valley Conference of the year came in with a 12-1 mark.
Game one was a dominant showing for the Knights, who led 5-0 after the first and 7-0 after another frame. Their lead continued to swell throughout the rest of the game, culminating in an 11-2 victory.
Connor Bain started on the mound for the winners and would strike out eleven through six innings. The game was closed out by Landon McKinnon in the seventh, tacking on a strikeout of his own.
Bain also helped himself at the plate, scoring three times off of four plate appearances. With two RBI and a home run, Jake Radosevich also played a key role with the bat in his hands.
In the second leg of the doubleheader, the Knights wasted no time scoring as Bain took the Bulldog’s first pitch yard.
Waterloo bit back with a run of their own in the bottom of the first, tying the game at 1-1. The Bulldogs would tack on another run in both the second and third, putting the Knights behind for the first time since April 1.
With Austin Brown taking to the mound for the hosts, the fourth inning only saw six batters appear at the plate between both teams.
After two outs and a Gabe Giacoletto walk, the top of the fifth looked like it might be another scoreless frame. John Rea had other plans however and homered to tie the squads up at 3-3.
This success carried over into the sixth inning, with Brady Coon and Wyatt Bugger both putting themselves into scoring position with just one out. Reed Wendler and Giacoletto would follow them with RBI hits that gave their squad a 6-3 lead.
This score would prove final, improving Triad to 12-3 on the season. Brown finished with 7 strikeouts through the final four innings and his only allowed base runner was a two out single in the seventh.
The five runs the Knights allowed over two games was another showing of the team’s pitching depth, something Coach Jesse Bugger is appreciative of, “We’re happy that we have depth, that’s the key to rolling up a lot of wins and being able to have somebody different to throw every night that can give you a chance.”
Later in the week on April 14, the Knights found themselves back on their own turf for a showdown with the Mattoon Greenwave.
Caleb Durbin took the start for Triad on the windy day and found himself in a rough spot with the bases loaded and one out in the first frame. A leaping catch from Rea at shortstop and a quick throw to second base would quickly wash his problems away however.
Safely reaching base, Bain, Rea and Radosevich all helped kick start the hosts offense as they went up 1-0 early in the first. Nic Funk and Carter Vandever would both reach base after hitting into fielder’s choice, setting up a two run shot from Coon to go up 4-0.
Miscues from the Greenwave would cause this lead to continue as mistakes in the outfield and a HBP would help grow their deficit to 7-0 before the inning ended.
Radosevich took his second HBP of the game in the second to start a rally that would include a Funk single and Vandever hitting a line drive that went through the first baseman’s glove. This offensive flurry would push their team ahead 8-0.
Both Radosevich and Vandever would deliver RBI in the bottom of the third and grew their advantage to 10-0. Mattoon responded with their first offense since the first inning to cut the deficit to 10-1.
Neither team would strike again until the bottom of fifth, when Radosevich rocked a two run shot that would score Rea. Due to short game rules, this ended the game at 12-1.
In his five innings on the bump, Durbin only surrendered one hit and fanned five.
The game was the sixth of Triad’s last game where the Knights scored in the first inning on their way to a win.
“We’ve been attacking early in games and getting up on people playing out front. The pitching’s been good, everything’s been good lately so I think we’re starting to pick up and play the way we’re capable,” Coach Bugger said of his team’s fiery starts as of late.
In addition to a 8-1 win over Centralia, the team’s game with Mattoon was their second game with a squad from their opposing sub-sectional.
Triad’s Head Coach spoke on the importance of these matchups with potential postseason foes, “Last year with the COVID season, things were a little bit different and we were seeded against teams that we never saw play, so we’ve made it a point to at least reach out to those schools so we can see them.”