Despite the fact the team has quite a bit of talent throughout its lineup, the Battlefield Bobcats used a bit of "little ball" to get their offense going and senior righthander Logan Bruckschun did the rest, allowing just four hits and two runs (one earned) to help Battlefield reach the 6A North semifinals Monday night with an 8-2 victory over visiting South Lakes.
Battlefield (16-7) broke open a tight game with five runs in the fifth to give Bruckshun a bit of breathing room. But it was the little things that made all the difference throughout for the Bobcats.
After leaving Brent Boggs in scoring position in the first inning, Battlefield posted a run in the third to take a 1-0, taking advantage of a well-placed bunt down the third base line by E'lan Goodwin, who moved to second when Matt Scott laid down another perfect bunt moments before shortstop Jett Manning laced a run-scoring double down the right field line.
Brady Harju led off the fourth inning with an infield single and eventually moved to third on fielder's choice grounders by Oakley Herrewig and Tristan Snyder. Goodwin walked and stole second, but Scott grounded to short to end the frame.
Jett Manning singled to begin the fifth before stealing both second and third. Tyler Solomon was intentionally walked before Jake Agnos drilled a single into the right center field gap to score Manning. Harju then socked a double to left that scored Josh Newman.
Agnos and Harju both scored when South Lakes first baseman Kyle King threw away a grounder by Oakley Herrewig to give the Bobcats a 5-0 lead. Goodwin then blasted a double to left to bring home Herrewig.
In the sixth, Battlefield added a pair of runs to take an 8-0 lead. Manning drew a leadoff walk before Boggs singled and Tyler Solomon was intentionally walked. Agnos then laced a two-run single to right to make it 8-0.
Bruckshun fell victim to some poor luck in the seventh when King's bad-hop single brought home the Sea Hawks' first run and their final run scored on a throwing error by Goodwin.
Battlefield coach Jay Burkhart smiled broadly when asked about Bruckshun's effort, during which 12 of the 21 outs were recorded either by ground outs or strikeouts.
“It’s good to see a senior go out there, accept the ball, and perform like he did,” Burkhart said. “He keeps the ball down, and he did well to pitch to [the strike zone] the umpire was giving him.”
Burkhart said the bunts stemmed from the Bobcats trying to get something going after being retired quickly and putting up a couple bad at-bats during the first two innings.
"The first couple innings we weren't taking good swings. We were a little too anxious and were rolling over on stuff,” Burkhart said. “We pulled them [the hitters into a conference with coaches] before the third inning and just told them to relax and not try to do too much. We got one run in that inning and you could kind of see the hitters started relaxing after that. We started getting balls in the gap as the hitters started getting a bit more comfortable.”
Burkhart said he was pleased that once the lineup got going, there were several different players that had good at bats.
“Hitting is contagious. You can see when one guy squares up it kind of seems to filter down through the rest of the lineup,” Burkhart said. “It’s good to score runs and not have to depend on pitching or defense to help us win a few games.”
Agnos said it is enjoyable to hit behind catcher Tyler Solomon (who has committed to Vanderbilt) and particularly Monday after Solomon was intentionally walked twice.
“The first time they walked him [to get to me], I got just a little underneath it, so when it happened again, I was determined not to miss it,” Agnos said.
Burkhart also lauded Agnos’ determination and ability to capitalize during important situations.
“Jake’s the kind of kid who you might get him [out] twice, but you are not going to get him the third time,” Burkhart said. “He was able to get that job done again tonight.”
Agnos, who batted cleanup, said he was not bothered by having Solomon walked in front of him twice.
“All due respect to Tyler Solomon, who is a great hitter, but I love it when they [opponents] do that because it just shows how solid our lineup is from top to bottom. Hitting is contagious. When one person starts hitting, it just starts building. When runners get on, they are going to start doing that and you just want to get in there, square one up, take one up the middle. It’s an honor to hit behind Tyler and you just want to get a good at-bat.”
Bruckschun said he tried not to get rattled after giving up a walk to open the game.
“What went through my mind was, ‘Don’t worry. Just bear down and get the next batter and that’s what I did,” Bruckschun said.
To be exact, he retired the next four batters prior to surrendering a single to King and before Thomas Mallaney reached on a throwing error by Manning at shortstop.
But the Bobcats got a break when King broke too far towards the plate during a pitch to Joshua Kobayashi and Battlefield got him in a rundown at third before he was tagged out. Then Bruckschun got Kobayashi to bounce back to the mound to end the threat.
The poise Bruckschun showed through the rest of the game was remarkable, especially after King drove in a run on a bouncing single into right,that took a bad hop on a field soaked by a strong pregame storm and another possible final out was thrown away, allowing another run to score.
“They’re just errors and there’s not much anyone can really do about them,” Bruckschun said. “I kept telling myself to take a deep breath, keep your composure, and compete.”