Pioneers top Nighthawks in dramatic fashion

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Okoboji needed every out they could muster in a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley June 6 in Siouxland Conference baseball play. Trailing 3-2 entering the top of the seventh, the Pioneers plated two runs with two outs to claim the lead on the road and run their record to 3-1 in conference play. Okoboji is now 5-4 overall.

"I just can't say enough about our guys and how much heart they have and how emotional this game was," said Okoboji coach Rory Marra. "They never quit and we could have easily quit when we were down 3-2, but they came back into our huddle before we batted in the seventh inning and were pretty confident that we were going to score two runs."

The bottom of the order sparked the Pioneers in their final at-bat. Ben DeMuth was hit by a pitch and then Keaton Jones legged out a bunt single. Keith Oskvig advanced runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, then James Halbur worked a walk to load the bases. With two outs, Zach Jones sent a grounder to the left side of the infield, but the shortstop threw the ball into right field trying to get the force at second, allowing both DeMuth and Keaton Jones to score.

In the bottom of the seventh, Okoboji starter Zach Jones breezed through the first two Nighthawk batters he faced before having to overcome some adversity. BH/RV sandwiched two singles around a walk to load the bases. Keith Wilkens worked a 3-2 count before Jones struck him out to finish the game.

"Zach's a very confident man and him and (catcher) James (Halbur) have been working together since they were young boys," Marra said about his decision not to call a mound meeting with the bases loaded. "Zach knew what he had to do and James is one of the better catchers that you'll see around. I have total confidence in both of those guys, so I just let them go."

The Pioneers held onto a 2-0 lead until the fifth inning when BH/RV gained its first lead of the night with three runs in the fifth and sixth frames, setting up the dramatic seventh.

"It was probably one of the more exciting games that I've been around high school wise," said Marra. "And it can be huge momentum wise. With the youth that we have, anytime you can go to other places in our conference and be able to come back and win games is big. It can do a lot going into the second half of our schedule and the second time around against the conference teams for these guys too."

Okoboji has now won three straight league games since dropping their Siouxland opener to West Lyon.

"In those three conference wins we've really played well in all parts of the game," said Marra. "We've gotten pretty good defense, really good pitching and we've gotten the hits when we've needed them. We've played lots of small ball and it's been really important for us. I can see the kids mindset is starting to change at the plate. They're becoming smarter and saying, 'what do I need to do to move runs or whatnot?' Whatever we're doing to score runs we're doing it as a team and it's been fun so far."

Jones has been strong on the mound in three victories this season. He gave up three runs -- two earned on six hits and fanned seven Nighthawk batters. Jones also finished 1-for-4 with a run batted in.

Oskvig and Burgeson were each 1-for-3 at the plate. Dubois finished 1-for-3 and Keaton Jones was 1-for-2 with two runs scored.

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