By the middle of the game the Yellow Jackets were just looking for a base-runner. By the bottom of the seventh Denison had the bases loaded and a chance to win.
The two halves of the 5-3 loss against Lovejoy in District 10-5A action at Denison on Thursday night couldn’t have been any different and that was the frustrating part of what could have been a thrilling comeback.
After putting themselves in a 4-0 hole after six innings and down 5-1 heading the seventh, the Jackets (6-10, 0-2) were suddenly in position for a walk-off victory or at least extra innings.
A one-out single to center by Jack Condit was followed by a double to center from Garrett Maxwell. After a strikeout, Nick Moreno beat out a slow roller to second to drive in a run and keep the game alive.
Down to his final strike, Luke Kirkbride hooked an RBI single between third and short to bring the winning run to the plate. Christian Ruebeck walked against reliever Cameron Pool to load the bases before Cam Wheeler groundout to third to end the game.
Lovejoy (13-3, 2-0) finished with just two hits in the game and just one in five innings against Ruebeck, who struck out nine and walked four.
Denison, which plays at Princeton on Friday, finally got on the board in the sixth inning. Kirkbride doubled to right field and then Ruebeck followed with an RBI single to right.
Up until that point the Yellow Jackets struggled to get anything going against Jordan Yonder, who didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. In fact, the right-hander retired the first 11 Jackets he faced without a ball leaving the infield until Ruebeck singled to left field.
In the fifth inning, Logan Tilley had a one-out double to right and Maxwell walked with two outs but Denison couldn’t break through.
The Leopards tacked on what turned out to be much-needed runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Lovejoy scored in the sixth on a two-out wild pitch. Ralph Rucker tripled off the right field wall against Coulter Maxson but he then induced a comebacker and a strikeout to almost wriggle out of the jam. Rucker then scored on the wild pitch. Wheeler made a diving catch in left-center to end the inning.
In the seventh, it was a two-out error which gave the Leopards a 5-1 advantage. With two out, Luke Stine walked and moved up on a wild pitch. Michael Difiore ground to short and an error by Ruebeck allowed Stine to come around from second.
Lovejoy finally broke through in the fourth and the Leopards did so without the benefit of a hit.
Luke Finn reached on an error to start the inning and then stole second with one out. Jacob Terwilliger reached on a strikeout and Finn went to third on the play. Colton Laurence hit a sacrifice fly to center field to put Lovejoy on the board. Terwilliger, who moved up on the sac fly, then stole third and Zach Smith, who was hit by a pitch, swiped second.
Cayden Earnhart couldn’t hang on to a foul tip that would have been an inning-ending strikeout and the pair of wild pitches that followed made it a three-run deficit for the Jackets.
Neither team was able to get a hit through three innings although Lovejoy did threaten to score in the third. Walks by Kolby Branch and Yoder opened the frame before a pickoff attempt at second went into center and both runners moved up. Ruebeck buckled down with back-to-back strikeouts before Earnhart recovered on a wild pitch in time for Ruebeck to apply the tag at the plate to end the inning and keep the game scoreless.
In the second inning, Terwilliger was hit by a pitch with two outs and Laurence walked before Ruebeck struck out Smith to end the threat.