PELLA — Down by four runs, Prairie City-Monroe High’s Mustangs were looking at their final six outs. The Mustangs had been stymied a bit by the pitching of Pella Christian High’s Andrew VanderHart through five innings.
VanderHart did give up five hits to the Mustangs but he also racked up 10 strikeouts. The Mustangs were happy to see Dillon Branderhorst replace VanderHart to open the sixth inning.
Well, sort of. Branderhorst struck out the first Mustang batter he faced in the sixth. The PC Eagles were protecting a 7-3 lead.
PCM’s Clay Cooper and Trey Lindsay started a one-out rally with back-to-back bloop hits to left field. Ethan Kain, senior shortstop, kept the Mustangs kicking with a two-out RBI single to right field then swiped second base.
Senior first baseman Alex DeWitte smashed a rope single to left field driving in two runs. Chase Keuning’s base hit prompted another pitching change by the Eagles. Eagle head coach Nathan Johnson went to senior Caleb Morgan.
Morgan coaxed a ground ball out of PCM’s Zach Uhlenhopp to end the inning. The Mustangs left two on in the inning and trailed 7-6.
After giving up an infield single to Ben Bouwkamp in the bottom of the sixth, Mustang starting pitcher Tyler Townsend retired the next three batters to keep his team close.
Morgan shut the door on the Eagles, despite hitting senior Alex Breckenridge with a pitch with one out. A fly-out and a strikeout gave Morgan the save for the Eagles. VanderHart got the victory for Pella Christian.
Townsend went the distance on the mound for PCM, taking the loss. He allowed nine hits, walked two and struck out four Eagles. The Mustangs are 18-14 overall.
Leading the Mustang offense were DeWitte with a single and a double plus Keuning and Kain with two singles each. VandeWall, Uhlenhopp, Cooper and Lindsay had a base hit apiece.
PCM got the first run of the game in the second inning. Keuning singled to right field followed by a bunt single by Uhlenhopp. Breckenridge was hit by a pitch with one gone then Lindsay drew a walk to force in the run.
The Eagles responded in their half of the second. Coltin Collins doubled down the left- field line and scored on a one-out single to left by Josh VanGorp.
Pella Christian broke the 1-1 tie with a four-run fourth. The teams became a bit sloppy defensively. The Eagles took advantage of two Mustang errors combined with three hits to gain a 5-1 lead.
PCM came back to score twice in the fifth. VandeWall reached on an Eagle error, went to second on a wild pitch and ended up at third base on a dropped third-strike play. DeWitte drove a VanderHart pitch deep to left field for an RBI double. With Uhlenhopp at the plate, ball four was a wild pitch and DeWitte came home from third base.
Another Mustang error led to two runs for Pella Christian in the fifth. Collins was on first after the miscue and the Eagles executed the hit-and-run with a single by Branderhorst. VanGorp’s double to centerfield plated both runs.
Lindsay snared a line drive off the bat of Josh Rolffs then flipped to Kain at second base to double off VanGorp.
Then came the Mustang rally that came up one run short.