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By Anthony Jones
Triad added a few more wins to their now 24-11 record last week.
The first came on their home turf against the Alton Redbirds. Prior to their May 15 matchup, the Redbirds held an 8-19 mark.
In the bottom of the fourth, the game’s first run scored as Nic Funk drove TJ Suter in off a single.
Pitcher Drew Winslow kept the Knights 1-0 lead intact until the bottom of the fifth, when their offense went back to work. Funk added to his RBI total by driving in Hayden Bugger and Brady Coon for a 3-0 lead. Carter Vandever added another run with a sacrifice fly.
Four runs of support proved sufficient for Winslow, who would make the 4-0 lead hold final. The right-handed sophomore picked up his first complete game in his seven-frame shutout.
The Knights were back at home the following day to battle the Marion Wildcats. Marion, who earned a two-seed, is a potential sectional semi-final opponent for Triad.
The visitors struck first in the non-conference matchup, scoring two runs off Funk in the top of the first. Marion scored once more in the top of the third, but Triad responded in the bottom of the half to pull within 3-2.
Funk kept Triad within one run through the bottom of the seventh, where the Knights were given one final chance to force extras or win.
Their last turn at the plate began with singles from Wyatt Suter and Hayden Bugger, who both moved into scoring position off a passed ball. Those hits came from the tailend of the Triad lineup, something their coach is seeing more often.
“They’re starting to swing the bat just a little bit better, which is huge for us to give us some length to the lineup going into the postseason. We’re glad to see it,” Coach Jesse Bugger said of the clutch hits from his eighth and ninth batters.
Marion relieved some of the pressure in short order after turning a ground ball into an out at home and a strikeout left Triad with one out remaining.
Senior TJ Suter took to the plate for the final at bat with plenty of confidence.
“I knew I could get this done. I’m a leader on the team and I had so much confidence going into that knowing that I’m at least going to tie this game,” Suter remarked.
Even after going down 0-1 in the count, the moment did not worry Suter. The senior sent the next pitch to the outfield, allowing two runners to score for the walkoff 4-3 win.
The walkoff win is another reason Suter is appreciative of his team securing a number one seed for the playoffs, “That’s big. That means we hit last, just like today. We’re never out of it if we can hit last.”
Triad played their final home game of the year later in the week on May 19. Standing in their way in that affair was the defending Class 4A state champion Edwardsville Tigers.
Edwardsville struck first with four runs in the top of the first, giving them a 4-0 lead. This remained intact through the first six innings.
The Tigers added two more tallies to their total in the top of the seventh before the Knights took one last turn at the plate. Eric Potthast broke up the shutout by driving in Hayden Bugger, but the Knights ultimately fell 6-1.
Triad traveled to O’Fallon the following day for their regular season finale. The Panthers entered their matchup at 23-6 overall.
Four runs of offense proved to be enough support for the Knight pitching staff once again, as they left with a 4-0 victory. TJ Suter tallied 2 RBI and Wyatt Bugger drove in another in the win.
Coon and Winslow split pitching duties in their shutout victory. They allowed a total of three hits and seven base runners in the win.
Triad, who earned a top seed, begin their playoffs on May 24 at 4:00 pm. They will take on seventh-seeded Taylorville in Jerseyville in that contest.
A win for the Knights would earn a return trip to Jerseyville for May 27 at 11:00 am. Their potential opponents in that affair are fourth-seeded Highland and sixth-seeded Jersey.
In the league meetings, Triad and Highland both scored one run victories over each other. The Knights won by a combined score of 20-1 against Jersey in the regular season.