Burrell extends winning streak to 3 with section victory over Freeport

Monday, April 26, 2021 | 8:44 PM

After a slow start, Burrell is improving, and with each win, its confidence is growing.

On Monday, as the Bucs (4-7, 2-5 Section 1-4A) battled Freeport (2-11, 0-7), their confidence grew even more as junior right-hander Joey Druga threw six innings of four-hit ball and struck out five as Burrell scored at least one run in each of the first four innings en route to a 7-5 win.

“This feels good, and throughout the year, the guys start to improve and we’re just going out and slowly getting better,” Burrell coach Mark Spohn said. “This is a very young team, and they still have to learn a lot.”

A loss to Highlands on April 19 in the front end of their section series was the seventh straight setback for the Bucs, who bounced back a day later with a 5-2 win — their first section victory of the season.

Burrell parlayed that into a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over Kiski Area on Thursday. The win over Freeport extended its streak to three, and junior third baseman Phil Walsh said the Bucs’ play over the last week increased their confidence coming into their matchup with Freeport.

“It made us believe that we can compete with teams now,” Walsh said. “Before we were down, but now we feel like we can play with anyone.”

It showed against Freeport as the Bucs battled out of tight situations all afternoon. The Yellowjackets’ first scoring threat came in the bottom of the second inning when they loaded the bases.

Druga induced a fly ball, got some ground balls and the Bucs took advantage of a few Freeport mental lapses to get out of the inning. The Yellowjackets scored three runs, but it could have been more.

The crafty right-hander then got himself out of another jam in the fourth inning, when the Yellowjackets put runners on first and third. He got a strikeout and two straight pop-ups to get out of the inning unscathed.

“He just minimized the damage as well as he possibly could, and that was huge for us,” Spohn said. “A base hit there changes the entire complexity of the game.”

The Bucs did their damage in the first four innings, scoring one run in the first and second, before plating two runs in third and three in the fourth. Walsh hit two doubles, including a towering 2-RBI moonshot to left-center in the top of the fourth inning to power Burrell’s three-run inning.

He came around to score on a Tristan Kenzevich hit for Burrell’s final run.

“I’ve just been keeping the same approach, trying to get in there and hit the ball where it’s pitched,” Walsh said. “I’m just trying to stay relaxed and keep focused.”

Burrell led 7-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh before the Yellowjackets made a run when Forrest Primm came into close the game.

Brady Stivenson led the inning off with a double, and Colton Abbot drew a walk before Primm got two straight outs on a pop-up and a strike out. The Yellowjackets still loaded the bases and drove in two runs before Jonathan Hotalski grounded out to end the game.

The Bucs will look to extend their win streak to four Tuesday with the second game of their section series against Freeport. Walsh feels like they’ve found the right formula to keep things going.

“We just gotta keep the mentality up, keep going at the same pace and keep the energy up,” Walsh said. “We play way better when we have energy in the dugout. As along as everyone does their jobs, we should be able to keep winning.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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