Spencer bends over backwards to beat Western
When Spencer played Western Christian the first time this year in Hull, it was the Wolfpack celebrating on their home field, following a 7-6 walk-off win. Wednesday night the Tigers flipped the script as Brady Plueger had a game-high five strikeouts and four RBIs, including a walk-off scoring Brady Illg, to win a 14-13 barn burner.
"We knew going into this game that Western had a pretty strong offense, and we did too. When we were over there it came down to the last at bat, so we knew it wasn't going to be easy," Spencer baseball coach Brian Dirkx said.
The Wolfpack went up early, scoring twice in the top of the first, but the Tigers had the quick answer in the bottom of the frame. An RBI single from Chase Habben scored Jake Kluender, and a two-run triple from Plueger brought Blake Illg and Habben home. Blake Rosendahl hit a single to center field to score Plueger for a 4-2 Tiger lead.
Spencer's lead grew in the second as Adam Labernik and Kluender each reached on errors. A Blake Illg single loaded the bases for a two-run double from Brady Illg. Caleb Heisinger was able to bring Blake home with a single.
Plueger started to struggle on the mound in the fourth, allowing six runs before Coach Dirkx brought in Chance Tatman in relief to get out of the inning.
"Brady Plueger battled tonight. He just didn't have his best stuff. He kept going after them, and they just won the battle," Dirkx said. "We had to go with the change, but it was nice for Brady to come up at the end with a big single to win it. I'm proud of him to bounce back after a tough pitching night. Every pitcher goes through those. They're never fun, but I know he's anxious to get the ball again and try to redeem himself."
Plueger notched another RBI on a single in the bottom of the inning, tying the game at eight.
Tatman popped up three of his four batters in the fifth for a quick inning, and Spencer added four more in the bottom half. Blake Illg hit a hard grounder to short stop which resulted in one of seven Wolfpack errors in the game, scoring Luke Petersen. Habben later hit a two-run double when the bases were loaded and Heisinger hit a sacrifice grounder to second, bringing home Brady Illg for a 12-8 Spencer lead.
Tatman faltered in the sixth, forcing Dirkx to send Petersen to the mound. A five-run burst from the Wolfpack made it a 13-12 game, but once again, Spencer had the answer in the form of a Kluender sac hit, scoring Sean Slattery, running in place of Petersen.
Petersen then sat Western down in order in the top of the seventh.
"I was really proud of Luke Petersen," Dirkx said. "He came in and gave up a couple singles in the sixth, but in that last inning he got the first three guys out. That was huge for us, and it kept the game tied."
Brady Illg reached on a leadoff single to right field in the bottom of the inning. Habben then successfully moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt, and a Heisinger ground-out advanced him to third. A soft liner from Plueger to right field was all that was needed for Illg to cross the plate for the Tigers' 14th and game-winning run.
Each team finished with 14 hits, but the 7-3 discrepancy in errors worked heavily in the Tigers' favor.
Petersen, Rosendahl, Habben and Brady Illg all turned in two-hit performances for the night. Pluegers' three hits and four RBIs led the way.
"I think we've got the confidence that we can score runs, and we can score a lot of them at different times, especially if it's a pitcher that we feel isn't overpowering," Dirkx said. "Our boys have a lot of confidence to get in there and swing away, and you always hear hitting is contagious. I just felt if we can keep it close, we can come back."
Spencer is now 13-5 this year and 8-3 in Lakes Conference play. They'll look to add another conference victory Thursday night when they host a Cherokee team they throttled 10-0 on Tuesday.