BY GREG FLINT
Oakwood won a IHSA Class 1A regional baseball title by defeating the Unity Rockets 5-2. The game started out as a pitcher’s duel but was decided by small ball and defense.
Conor Jarling started for the Comets while Mitch Negangard was on the mound for the Rockets. Both pitchers did not allow a base runner until the second inning and no one scored until Oakwood got three runs in the fifth.
It looked as if Unity would score first as they put runners on first and second with two out in the third inning. Negangard singled to left field, from where Cody McClintock threw to third base.
The lead runner for the Rockets raced toward home plate while the throw was coming into third base. Kyle Girton grabbed the throw and tagged the runner for the third out in the inning.
Initially the Unity run was counted, but the umpires eventually ruled that the tag came before the runner reached home so the game stayed scoreless.
The bottom of the order came up for Oakwood in the fifth inning and Cameron Cawley reached first by being hit by a pitch. Landon Turner bunted and reached first, moving Cawley to second.
Alex Anderson came up and also bunted to load the bases. That brought up the top of the order and Davin Miles who walked to force in the first run of the game.
Jake England reached on a fielder’s choice, Jarling singled to right and Caleb Thompson put the ball in play. In the end, the Comets added two more runs to lead 3-0.
“We were solid, top to bottom,” is how Comet head coach Bob Sermak described the hitting of his team. “The bottom of the order got on and the top got them home.”
Jarling continued to control the Unity batters until the bottom of the sixth when the Rockets scored two runs on a couple of singles and a sacrifice fly that pulled them within a run.
Oakwood added some insurance runs in the seventh as Miles doubled up the left field line. He reached second on a single by Ryan Bott, but was out at home on a fielder’s choice by England.
Jarling then hit a wicked grounder that hopped over the first baseman’s glove which scored Bott and England to make the score 5-2.
Sermak had warmed up a pitcher as his team batted in the seventh, but Jarling needed no help as he finished the complete game to get the win and the title for his team.
Jarling had the Unity batters guessing most of the day and Sermak said it was due to his curve ball.
“There’s so much difference in the speed of his curve and his fastball that it makes his fastball even better,” explained the coach.
Jarling said he knew it would be a tough game so he started mixing things up right away.
“There are days when you feel good and your stuff is working,” he said, “but you’ve got to give credit to our defense for making some big plays out there. And the bottom half of our order did a great job, too.”
Sermak agreed with his pitcher about the defense, noting a diving catch by Anderson in right field as “a big play for us.”
He summed up his feelings about the game, saying, “I’m really proud about how we played today, but best thing is we’re conference and regional champions.”
Greg Flint is a freelance writer/photographer for the Commercial-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org