North Catholic baseball slugs its way past Knoch in section battle

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 | 8:57 PM

Aside from a two-run double in the top of the second inning, Knoch held North Catholic in check for a majority of Tuesday’s Section 1-4A baseball game.

Senior right-hander Brayden Hageter, who threw five innings of six-hit ball, escaped jams all night and stranded eight runners in the first four innings. But the Trojans were bound to strike again, and they did so in the seventh inning.

Sean Dewey hit his second two-run double of the game to cap off a five-run inning that led the Trojans (12-4, 8-0) to a 7-1 victory over the Knights (9-7, 6-4) to secure their place atop the section.

“We hit the ball well last night. We had good approaches. We were on top of it, but today was a little bit of a different game,” North Catholic coach Matt Diesel said. “We had a lot of baserunners, but we didn’t execute early. It was a 2-1 game, and it was tight throughout the game, but we found a way to manufacture a few runs going into that seventh inning there.”

With four section games in five days — North Catholic will close its section schedule with matchups against Highlands on Thursday and Friday — Diesel elected to go into his bullpen Tuesday and took a by-committee approach on the mound.

Rocky Kopac earned the start and threw the first three innings, allowing three hits and three walks. Dylan Crimm threw the next three innings. He allowed just two hits but threw a pick-off attempt at second base into center field, which allowed Knoch freshman Brady Wozniak to score the Knights’ only run after a leadoff double.

Nate Higgins allowed one hit in the seventh inning to close it out.

“They were big tonight for us, and it was kind of a by-committee approach. We’ll get some guys some bullpens tomorrow,” Diesel said. “We’re a really young group, and they’ve been doing a fantastic job all year.”

Tuesday was Knoch’s third loss in a row by five runs or more, and at times throughout the game, it seemed like the Knights couldn’t push a runner across. They left the bases loaded in the bottom of the second and also committed a baserunning mistake in the bottom of the third that took a runner out of scoring position.

Knoch coach Bradley Bestic said it came down to execution.

“If I had to simplify it, it came down to two-out hitting for us,” Bestic said. “They just did a little better job than we did tonight.”

Before their loss to Mars last week, the Knights had won eight of nine. They had excelled in two-out situations and found ways to bring runs around.

With two nonsection games remaining and the Knights clearly in the playoff picture, Bestic said the team will look to clean everything up in hopes of surprising opponents in the playoffs.

“We’re gonna get back to work here and find what the root is to try and right the ship for the playoffs,” Bestic said. “Everything is on the table, really. We have two more opportunities to prepare for the playoffs, and if we can right the ship, I think we can be a dangerous team.”

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

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