OAKWOOD — Tie game, bases loaded and one out, game-winning run on third base, that’s the start of a memorable story for any senior baseball player.
Oakwood’s Isaiah Ruch found himself in that exact situation Friday afternoon against Westville in an IHSA Class 2A regional semifinal.
The end of the story for Ruch is successful, but not quite what he wanted.
Westville’s Ethan McMasters hit Ruch with his 2-1 offering giving the Comets a 14-13 victory at the Fletcher Family Field inside of Oakwood Park.
“I really wanted to get a hit in that situation,’’ said Ruch, who was 3-for-3 with a walk and that was his second hit-by-pitch of the game. “But, anyway to get that runner home from third was going to win it and that was the most important thing.’’
The finish capped a typical wild, crazy game at Oakwood Park with the wind playing havoc with both teams.
“I hate these games,’’ Oakwood coach Ryan McFarland admitted. “These games are harder to coach because you never feel safe. You know they are going to score. You know that you are going to score. You just don’t know how many runs you are going to need.’’
The Comets (14-9) actually overcame a 12-6 deficit with a 7-run fifth inning and then the game-winning run in the seventh.
“Scoring those 7 runs in the fifth inning and taking the lead — I thought that took a lot of momentum away from there,’’ said Ruch. “We put the ball in play and had some good situational hitting.’’
Ruch’s younger brother, Joshua, also drove home a run in the fifth with his own bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.
“It runs in the Ruch family,’’ said Isaiah.
So, what is the key to winning a game where both teams score double-digit runs.
“It’s a chess match,’’ Isaiah said. “You just have to play until the last out. The lead can change at any point in the game, because any team can score 10 runs in any inning.’’
On Friday, it seemed like limiting free bases, whether that was by walk, hit-batter or error, was crucial.
“Oh no, you can’t commit errors,’’ said McFarland, whose team had two errors during a 4-run fourth inning for Westville. “When you commit and error and they start scoring — that’s when you get hammered.
“As a hitter, you have to put the ball in play. Because crazy things are going to happen here with the wind blowing out like it was.’’
That was evident in the seventh inning for Westville.
Oakwood leadoff hitter Joshua Ruch reached base when his infield popup was lost in the sun, it was the second inning in a row that Westville’s defense lost a ball in the sun. The Tigers worked their way out of the jam in the sixth, but things didn’t work out as well in the seventh.
“That was something we have worked on. The same thing happened earlier this year,’’ Westville coach Joe Brazas said.
And while those missed plays, along with four errors were costly, Brazas was more disappointed with the seven walks and four hit-batters.
“You just can’t give up that many free bases in a regional game like this,’’ he said, also noting that the Tigers (6-11) didn’t have a senior on its roster.
“We have this whole team back and this was the first regional baseball game for most of them,’’ he said. “Hopefully, this will be a learning experience.’’
The Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a 3-run homer to right by first baseman Bryce Burnett in the first inning. Westville catcher Drew Wichtowski went 3-for-3 with three RBIs with a two-run single in the fourth and an RBI double in the fifth.
Oakwood’s Dalton Hobick, who allowed 1 run on two hits in two innings of relief, was the winning pitcher, while Drew McMasters, who came in relief for Cade Schaumburg, took the loss.
The Comets advance to Monday’s regional championship where Oakwood will play St. Joseph-Ogden at 4:30 p.m.