STREATOR — On a day tailor-made for offense, it seemed only right one big swing of the bat put it away.
With strong winds propelling flyballs and a rock-hard infield making every groundball an adventure, hits and runs were plentiful early Friday when the Sandwich Indians paid an Interstate Eight Conference visit to the Streator Bulldogs. Hayden Isham provided the biggest of the them all, though, tagging a two-out, bases-loaded triple into the right-center field gap in the top of the seventh to put away a 13-7 Indians triumph.
"That was a big hit by Hayden," said Indians skipper Jason VanPelt. "His bat's just starting to come alive. He went through a period where he struggled for a week and a half or so, but he's really starting to heat up.
"I had a lot of confidence in him in that situation, had a good feeling about it."
When Isham stepped into the batter's box in the seventh, the Indians (7-9 overall, 5-4 in the I-8) led Streator (8-9, 6-4) by a precarious 10-7 margin in a game where the teams had already combined for four half innings of three or more runs scored. His line-drive shot to the fence scored Sean Smith, Christopher Schiera and Andrew Gipe, extending the Indians advantage to a half dozen runs and ending a gutsy performance by Streator starter and losing pitcher Jacob Bemont.
Sandwich opened the game with four unearned runs off Bemont (6 2/3 IP, 9 ER, 14 H, 3 BB, 4 K) in the top of the first, highlighted by a two-run bomb over the fence in left off the bat of Jake Pfaff. Streator answered with a solo homer to right-center from leadoff man Joey Byers, then the Indians and Diamond Dogs scored three runs each in the second — Schiera and Zach Hix with RBIs for Sandwich, Byers and Lucas Sharisky with run-scoring knocks for Streator.
That pattern of the Indians getting ahead, Streator fighting back and Sandwich pulling away again was the overriding theme of the contest until Isham's three-run three-bagger all but ended the chase.
"I think this team feels it can put some runs up and that they're never out of a ballgame," Bulldogs coach Beau Albert said. "Even when somebody puts up four, five runs in the first inning, we kind of have that mentality that we have to chip away, see what we can do, get a couple here and a run there and try to fight our way back into the ballgame.
"I think we did an OK job of that until the seventh."
Byers (2-for-3, home run, three runs scored), Sharisky (single, double) and Brett Dresbach (1-for-3) contributed two RBIs each for the home team, with designated hitter Daniel Gonzalez adding two hits and another run batted in.
Isham (3-for-5, triple) finished with a game-best four RBIs for the Indians, with Schiera (3-for-4, four runs scored) and Austin Salemi (3-for-4, two RBIs) also enjoying three-hit days. Hix and Pfaff drove home two runs each, while Sean Smith had two singles in support of reliever and winning pitcher Hix (3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 K).
"It's funny," said VanPelt. "The third or fourth inning Streator had just gotten it to within 8-7, and I said, 'Saddle up, boys. This is like the Wild West out here.' The dust is blowing around, we didn't know if there were going to be tumbleweeds blowing over the fence or what was going to happen.
"But I'm very proud of my guys and how they responded to every situation today. Streator kept battling ... but every time they made a run at us, we responded."
At SHS Athletic Fields, Streator
Sandwich 13, Streator 7
SANDWICH (13) — Schiera c 4-4-3-1, Gipe ss/3b/p 4-2-0-1, Isham p/ss 5-2-3-4, Salemi 2b 4-0-3-2, Hix 3b/p 4-1-1-2, Pfaff 1b 4-1-1-2, W. Murphy cf 3-1-1-0, Smith lf 3-2-2-0, J. Murphy rf 2-0-0-0. Totals 33-13-14-12.
STREATOR (7) — Byers ss 3-3-2-2, Sharisky 2b 4-0-2-2, Benckendorf c 3-0-0-0, Gonzalez dh 4-1-2-1, Phillis cf 3-0-1-0, Sember 1b 2-0-0-0, Vickers 3b 3-1-1-0, Colter lf 2-1-1-0, McKinley rf 2-0-0-0, Bemont p 0-0-0-0, Starkey cr 0-1-0-0, Dutko pr 0-0-0-0, Telford p 0-0-0-0, Dresbach ph/1b 2-0-1-2, McGurk ph 1-0-0-0, Grabowski ph 1-0-1-0, Cantrell rf 2-0-0-0. Totals 32-7-11-7.
Sandwich (7-9, 5-4) 430 101 4 — 13 14 2
Streator (8-9, 6-4) 130 300 0 — 7 11 2
GIDP - Schiera, Vickers. LOB - Sandwich 7; Streator 9. 2B - Schiera 2, Salemi, Sharisky, Phillis, Grabowski. 3B - Isham. HR - Pfaff, Byers. SAC - J. Murphy 2, Hix. SB - Isham 2, Gipe. HBP - Gipe (by Bemont), Salemi (by Telford).
Sandwich ip r er h bb k
Isham 3.0 4 4 7 2 3
Hix (W) 3.0 3 1 3 2 1
Gipe 1.0 0 0 1 0 1
Bemont (L) 6.2 13 9 14 3 4
Telford 0.1 0 0 0 0 1