MELISSA — The battle of Tigers turned in to a pitcher’s duel on Thursday night as Gunter and Leonard squared off in the Class 3A bi-district round.
In the end, it was the Tigers from Gunter who broke through as they took Game 1 from Leonard with a 1-0 victory on Thursday night at the Melissa Sports Complex.
“It was a great game tonight,” Gunter head coach Kerry Clement said. “You also have to tip your hat to Leonard for their pitcher playing well. It was a tough battle.”
Game 2 is tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m. back at the Melissa Sports Complex.
Both teams had plenty of chances in the first inning to score. Leonard was unable to score in the top half of the inning after putting runners on second and third. But, Gunter pitcher Daylan Bower worked his way out of the jam to end the inning.
On the other end, Leonard pitcher Dalton Tonubbee struck out the last batter of the inning after Bower had reached base with a triple in the previous at bat.
“Dalton was huge for us tonight,” Leonard head coach Mike Virden said. “To compete like that and play well against a well-coached, good-hitting team says a lot for what he was able to do.”
Both pitchers made quick work of the second inning and Tonubbee found his way out his own jam in the third inning after two Gunter runners had reached base with a walk and a single.
The fourth inning proved to be pivotal as Leonard again was unable to bring in runners after putting them on first and second thanks to a walk and a single of their own.
Gunter broke through in the bottom half of the fourth, as Powell Zuniga drove a ball to the gap in left-center field that brought in Matt Hunter for the only run. Zuniga added another double in the sixth inning.
“Powell had a great game for us,” Clement said. “He’s been coming up with big hits for us all season long and I’m happy for him.”
Meanwhile, Bower did his part to keep holding off Leonard. The senior allowed just one hit and struck out nine in six innings. Hunter finished off the win for Gunter, retiring the side in order for the save.
“Daylan pitched great for us tonight,” Clement said. “He did a great job of limiting his walks tonight and did a great job out there. He’s just a gamer and plays hard.”
As for Leonard, it proved to be a tough night with seven runners left on base.
“We had all kinds of chances to score but we just couldn’t get that one hit we needed,” Virden said. “We just need to keep fighting. We’re guaranteed one more game Friday and anything can happen after that in a Game 3. We have to get this game on Friday first.”