Streaks win Baseball regional

By John Ring

Moline leadoff hitter Eric Boster hit what looked to be a routine ground ball for the last out of the game. It bounced harmlessly to Galesburg All-World shortstop Ryan Kohl with two outs, nobody on, and the Streaks poised to win a Regional Title with a 6-3 lead.

But, as happens so much in baseball, the ball took a bad hop.

No need to worry.

''I knew I was going to make the play,'' said Kohl, ''even with that bad hop. This is our field. This is our home and there was no way I wasn't going to make that play.''

Pitcher Josh Fields, a junior on a team dominated by seniors, was just as confident. ''I knew that was it. Look, he's been doing it for us all year.''

Kohl fielded it on his chest and threw on the run to wrap the game up. Fields had two wins in two days.

So did the Silver Streaks.

What fear the Streaks had of Moline evaporated two weeks ago when the two teams split a twinbill. Both were close games, well played and could have gone either way. Another meeting seemed inevitable and a late Galesburg rally against Rock Island the day before insured it.

Senior ace Carl Barlett got the start and was nicked for a run in the first inning, courtesy of back to-back doubles by Jay Molina and David Smith. Molina is a genuine hitting machine bound for Notre Dame.

''Slider, fastball, changeup, that guy can hit anything,'' said Barlett, who went 5 1/3 innings and allowed five hits and just one earned run. ''All I tried to do with Molina was to keep him off balance and keep him in the park.''

Smith, a lefthanded Maroon hurler with a zippy fastball, shut down the Galesburg offense until Kohl doubled to open the 4th inning. Ryan eventually scored on an RBI single by rightfielder Nate Scudder, who finished the day with two hits, two walks and two stolen bases.

''Smith had this move to first that's good but he sort of tips it off,'' said Scudder. ''I got good jumps and got the steals.''

''Kohl's the only one with a green light to do that,'' said Coach Arnie Gonzalez of Scudder's daring baserunning. ''But I was worried last night and today about scoring runs. We had to get things going, that's sort of a motto for us and we tried to get anything we could.''

Tied after 5 innings, both teams squandered opportunities. A leadoff double by Joey Stull was wasted in the Galesburg 3rd inning. Scudder was hit on a groundball off the bat of B.J. Fox in the 6th that stopped another threat. But the turning point of the game came in Moline's half of the 3rd inning.

With two runners on and Molina at the plate, Barlett worked the Maroon slugger to a 1-2 count. ''I fooled him once or twice,'' said Barlett, ''but you can't do much more than that.''

Molina ripped a Barlett fastball on the next pitch -- but fortunately for the Streaks, it went right to Kohl.

''Man, he hit that ball hard,'' said the Streaks shortstop. ''It must have been going a hundred miles an hour.'' Kohl took a step to his left, caught the ball and doubled off Moline's Steve Roberts at second base.

''That was a big play,'' said Moline Coach Derrek Lindauer. ''That could have been a big inning for us.''

Gonzalez agreed. ''I had the bullpen going and if Molina gets that hit, we could have been in trouble. That may have been the game.''

Instead, Barlett settled down until the 6th inning. Scudder saved the Streaks hurler with a diving grab off the bat of Matt Jasper to start the inning -- ''I had it all the way,'' said Scudder -- but Molina crushed a Barlett curveball for another double, Barlett intentionally walked Smith and Gonzalez pulled the lefty for Fields.

Kohl's error on a groundball by Zach Esterdahl allowed one run in and Fields uncorked a wild pitch to make the score 3-1 going into the 7th inning.

But Stull started the Streaks rally with a walk. Lindauer yanked Smith and inserted Boster, who gave up an infield single to Adam Snell. After failing to bunt twice, Adam Welty grounded out but advanced the runners to second and third.

Then the controversy started.

Chad Goad hit a ground ball and appeared to beat it out when the Moline first baseman came off the bag to get the throw. Initially called out, Gonzalez appealed to the home plate umpire and it was reversed. The lead was cut to 3-2. Kohl was walked and then Jeremy Pickrel unloaded a bases clearing double to left field on a 1-1 pitch.

Pickrel has struggled at the plate the last few weeks, mostly because he has a tendency to fall behind on the count. ''He grooved a fastball to me and I got a good look at it,'' said the Streaks centerfielder.

''Jeremy has been struggling but he's the first one out here to take extra batting practice,'' said Gonzalez of his cleanup hitter who has a .293 batting average.

Scudder then doubled in Pickrel to finish the scoring. Fields got the call to finish the game out from Gonzalez.

''I was very nervous out there,'' said Fields ''but when we got the insurance run, Coach Gonzalez told me to go out there and finish it.''

Lindauer was gracious in defeat despite getting ejected by the umpire after Pickrel's big hit. Asked about the controversial play in the 7th inning with Goad, Lindauer replied, ''Honestly? I always thought if you threw the ball to first and catch it, you're out. We lost two outs that way. Look, I never come out of the dugout to argue. But that's baseball. I wouldn't change a thing I did today. Eric Boster has 15, 16 saves for us the last two years. I didn't know what Smith's pitch count was. I didn't care. But the big play was Molina's double play. That's the beautiful thing about baseball.''

Indeed it is. A game of inches and a game of breaks. Kohl was called out on strikes after looking at an inside fastball in the 5th inning. It's just the third time this year the .548 hitting shortstop has been fanned.

''It almost hit my thigh,'' said Kohl after the game.

Good breaks or bad breaks, good calls or non-calls, baseball is baseball.

And the Galesburg Silver Streaks are into Sectional action.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online May 29, 2001

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