By Austin Walther
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- The Patriots got a strong pitching performance by starter Ryan Cheatham who just missed a complete game as they defeated the Cougars 7-3 to advance to the championship game of Bracket One.
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UT-Tyler awaits the winner of Sunday morning's elimination game, which is a rematch of a Friday game between Randolph-Macon and Misericordia.
The opening inning got a little shaky for the Patriots. After the first two batters reached base on singles, No. 3 hitter Tyler Holzapfel launched a drive deep into left field. Patriots left fielder Tanner Roach sprinted back and made a leaping catch at the wall, robbing Holzapfel of extra bases. Misericordia leadoff hitter Kenny Jarema left second base early and was doubled off, squashing the threat.
|Texas-Tyler has reached the bracket one title game, in part, by staying loose.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
|Henry Sanchez was 3-for-3 batting out of the nine spot in the Texas-Tyler lineup.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
“This game is a game of momentum,” Patriots coach Brent Porche said. “It easily could’ve swung and it did start to swing in their direction. They have some traffic and we make an unbelievable play and that kid [Tanner Roach] is an athlete.”
Texas-Tyler got on the board first in the second inning. Alex Bishop reached on a walk, advanced on a throwing error and came around to score from a standup triple by Graham Welch.
Welch came home on the next at-bat when Blake Maddox hit a shot in the same direction down the left field line. Henry Sanchez smacked one to center to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead.
“My approach is to help out my team wherever I can and not do too much,” Sanchez said. “I try to pick a location, try to pick a pitch and do the best that I can. I just want to help my team out.”
Misericordia’s center fielder lost a ball in the sun in the third inning which put runners on second and third. Parker Abate handled the next flyout, but it was deep enough to send home a runner. Bowie Farris then tattooed the left field line for an RBI single to put the Patriots up 5-0.
The Patriots put a run on the board for the third consecutive inning when Sanchez connected on a double and scored from a Jared Pauley single to increase their lead 6-0.
Sanchez, the No. 9 hitter for the Patriots, ended the game going 3-for-3 with one run scored and an RBI. Porche said he wasn’t an everyday guy at the beginning of the season because there was a lot of moving pieces in the middle infield.
“It’s really fun as a coach to see guys that worked that hard to have big situations like this,” Porche said. “Our guys trust him because he’s going to do whatever it takes for us to win.”
Cheatham got into a little trouble for UTT with multiple guys on in the first, third and fourth but was able to get out of it. His biggest threat came in fifth when he allowed a lead off double and a walk.
Misericordia finally got to Cheatham then when Tyler Holzapfel ripped a double to right that sent home Sean Lyons to put the score 6-1.
“We always compete,” Holzapfel said. “It was that point in the game where one hit finally fell and it wasn’t any different approach, we just got lucky.”
Starting pitcher for the Cougers Drake Koch settled down after the fourth. He ended with only four earned runs, one walk and three strikeouts. Zach Mason came out of the bullpen and pitched well. The problem was though that Misericordia couldn’t get any runs across
“We don’t know much about these teams so we’re pitching trial by error,” coach Pete Egbert said. “I think we learned a little bit as the game developed. We made some better pitches and executed some pitches and had them a little more off balanced.”
Texas-Tyler was not done. Blake Maddox led off the ninth with a double. Zane Wilkinson pinch ran, advanced from a sac bunt and was knocked in by Jared Pauley to put the score 7-1.
Cheatham didn’t quite go the distance. He was lifted after throwing 8.1 when he loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth to make way for Alexander Masotto.
Parker Abate hit a shot to the short stop and avoided a double play which scored two Cougars runs. Masotto then got the final batter to ground out to third base to end the game.
Cheatham finished the afternoon going eight and a third innings, giving up eight hits, two earned runs, six walks and one strikeouts. And the guys behind him made a world of difference.
“My approach was to throw strikes the best that I could,” Cheatham said. “I mixed some pitches well and give my team a chance. With the defense I got behind me, it’s easy for me to go out there and just keep the ball low and let those guys play.”
Egbert touched on how the game was basically determined in the first inning when Roach made a heck of a play and doubled the runner. He also said he liked the way his guys battled all game and felt like they were never out of it.
“It was a good ball game,” Egbert said. “I told my guys the game wasn’t as lopsided as the score would indicate. We had some hard hit balls that didn’t fall and they turned some double plays, but I thought our guys competed throughout.”