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By Anthony Jones
At least a share of the Mississippi Valley Conference title will stay with Triad baseball.
The Knights clinched their portion of the league crown on May 3, when they dispatched Highland in a 1-0 home contest.
The game’s lone run came in the bottom of the first, when Brady Coon led off for the Knights after taking first on a hit by pitch. Coon then stole second and was advanced to third by a Carter Vandever groundout. A subsequent wild pitch allowed Coon push Triad ahead 1-0.
Nic Funk, who tossed all seven frames, made the lone run hold. His complete game shutout was not without stressful moments however, as Highland put a runner in scoring position in four innings.
One such instance came in the top of the fourth, when the Bulldogs had two runners on and no outs.
The visiting rivals opted for a bunt, but a well executed wheel play from TJ Suter at third resulted in the lead runner being retired. Highland’s next two batters hit into outs.
In the top of the fifth, the Bulldogs had two runners on base with one out. Their leadoff hitter hit into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners.
A subsequent hit by pitch loaded the bases, but Funk escaped the jam after drawing a groundout.
Highland was threatening to score once again in the sixth frame at the hands of a leadoff double. This runner was quickly erased after a pickoff try led to a successful pickle for the Knights.
Coach Jesse Bugger went over the shutout performance from his squad, “The defense was outstanding and ran a lot of the team defense. We were right on cue with what we needed to do. Those are not things that we have to do all the time, so for us to to work on these things and then being able to execute them was big. But the story tonight was Nic Funk all night long getting ground balls.”
Funk, who finished with three strikeouts in the win, was appreciative of the support behind him.
“I don’t strike many people out, so I need them to play really well. They did today and it’s awesome,” the senior pitcher remarked.
Triad’s win over Highland also leveled the rivalry season after a road loss earlier in the week.
The Knights fell 3-2 after eight innings in their only conference loss so far. Austin Brown tossed seven frames with one earned run in the defeat.
McGrady Noyes and Wyatt Bugger produced the team’s only RBI in the game, both coming in their two-run second inning.
Triad hopes their 7-1 league start can lead to an outright MVC title and a number one seed in the postseason
“We don’t like to share, but we’ve got a couple games in hand still. I’ve got to turn in for seeds on Monday morning, so it should be enough to get us the number one seed and hopefully set our postseason up,” Coach Bugger remarked after their win over Highland.
Funk said of the importance of drawing the top seed, “It’s huge. We had the number one seed last year too and it made the path so much easier.”
In upcoming action, Triad hosts Civic Memorial on May 8 and travels to the Eagles on May 10. A win in either of those meetings would guarantee the Knights win the conference outright.
If the Knights drop both games to Civic Memorial, they would need Mascoutah, Highland and Waterloo to each lose one of their final two conference games to clinch outright.