Fort Myers, FL - The Prairie Fire fell to Johns Hopkins University 10-4 after a big eighth inning by the Blue Jays.
Knox (1-1), playing in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, scored in the first inning on a bunt by senior Caleb Weaver (Galesburg, IL, Galesburg) that sent junior Phil Tallman (Park Ridge, IL, Maine South ) home after he led off the game with a double.
Sophomore Nathaniel Grady (Antelope, CA, Oakmont) got the start on the mound for the Prairie Fire. He pitched a perfect first before giving up a run in the second inning that tied the game at 1-1. The Blue Jays (9-2) took a 2-1 lead in the third inning after an error and a single.
First-year Blake Newberg (Moline, IL, Rock Island Alleman) led off the top of the fifth for Knox with a single. He was lifted on base for fellow first-year Geoff Hahn (Cameron, IL, United). Senior Michael Schroeder (Glenview, IL, Glenbrook South) and Tallman hit back to back singles to load the bases. After a fly out by senior Kyle Walenga (San Francisco, CA, Waldorf) and a strike out by junior Jackson White (Grayslake, IL, Grayslake Central), Hahn scored on a passed ball to tie the game at 2-2. The Prairie Fire, however, left the bases loaded without doing any more damage.
Junior hurler Bryan Leslie (Richmond, IL, Richmond-Burton) relieved Grady in the bottom of the sixth inning. Leslie faced two batters, forcing a fly out to center before allowing a double that gave the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead. The run was charged to Grady, while Leslie's appearance concluded with an earned run over 1/3 of an inning.
Grady (0-1) took the loss after he worked 5 1/3 innings and surrendered three runs, two of them earned, a walk and struck out two.
Senior Gabe Ayers (Hanna City, IL, Farmington) replaced Leslie and finished the game for Knox. Ayers allowed an RBI single in the sixth that accounted for the earned run by Leslie and extended the Johns Hopkins advantage to 4-2.
Knox scored in the top of the seventh when Weaver smacked an RBI single that plated Tallman to trim the Hopkins lead to 4-3. The Prairie Fire loaded the bases but couldn't add more runs. Knox stranded 13 base runners in the game.
The Blue Jays put the contest away in the bottom of the eighth inning. A lead-off single began a six run march that resulted in a 10-3 lead for JHU.
Ayers allowed all six runs. He pitched 2 1/3 innings and gave up seven hits, walked two, and struck out two.
The first four batters for Knox got on base in the ninth inning, but only one crossed home plate. Walenga scored the final run of the game on a single by junior Erik Smoy (Hoffman Estates, IL, Hoffman Estates).