MORRIS – Entering a three-game series with first place Kaneland, the Morris baseball team needed to get off to a good start to keep its Northern Illinois Big 12 East title hopes alive. Morris is at 8-4, and Kaneland is at 9-4. Luckily for the Redskins, they managed to maintain their hopes, winning 6-3 Monday.
The visiting Knights got off to a quick start when Joe Panico drew a one-out walk in the top of the first inning before scoring two batters later when cleanup hitter Nick Stratman’s RBI single made the score, 1-0. Another Kaneland run of the unearned variety would give the Knights a 2-0 jump on the Redskins.
In the second inning, Morris was able to cut into the Kaneland lead when Morris pitcher Tim Smyk launched a soaring solo home run deep over the fence in left field to make it a 2-1 ballgame.
On the mound, Smyk was able to settle in nicely after the rough first inning. He pitched through trouble in the second and third innings, but didn’t allow a run. In the fourth, he struck out a pair in a three-up-and-three-down inning.
At the plate, Morris came up with a clutch third inning. Morris racked up four straight two-out singles to push across a trio of runs that gave the Redskins a 4-2 advantage.
“I felt like out kids responded positively today, and I don’t know how many hits we had exactly, but it really wasn’t about how many hits we had, it was about how timely they were,” Morris coach Todd Kein said.
In the Kaneland half of the fifth inning, the Knights managed to manufacture a run when Tyler Carlson led off the inning with a single.
Carlson then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt before taking third on a passed ball and scoring on an ensuing throwing error.
Heading into the Morris half of the fifth, the game was halted when a lightning strike was spotted to the west. The delay lasted 50 minutes.
In the sixth, Morris was able to add some insurance when it pushed across a pair of runs. With a 6-3 lead heading into the seventh, Smyk came back out to finish what he started.
Smyk ran into some trouble, loading the bases before pitching out of the jam and stranding a trio of Knights to secure the complete-game victory.
“I knew that if Thomas (Cheshareck) came into the game he could finish it out, but it showed that coach (Kein) had confidence in me to stay out there and finish it out,” Smyk said.
The win improved Morris to 21-8, and it now trails Kaneland by a half-game in the conference.