STREATOR — Although each and every out of a baseball game can be a tough one, some will say the final out is the hardest to get.
That for the Streator Bulldogs, at least in Monday's Interstate Eight Conference game against Wilmington at the SHS Athletic Fields, proved to unfortunately be the case.
Streator senior right-hander starter Joey Byers took the mound for the top of the seventh after driving in the go-ahead tally, but after recording the first two outs reached his pitch count (106) and had to be removed. The Wildcats, down to their last out, rallied to plate three unearned runs off reliever Trevor Sember to walk away with a 4-2 victory.
"Tough one ... two outs and nobody on ... we just didn't finish," said Streator coach Beau Albert, his club now 8-10 overall and 6-5 in the I-8. "Wilmington is a very good ballcub, they have a really good chance to win a regional, but we just couldn't find a way to put them away. Even after the two-out walk in the seventh, we had a great chance to end it with a groundball to short, but we just didn't make the play.
"I thought for six innings we played a really solid ballgame, but like I told the guys, when you have a good team down, especially at your place, good teams find a way to finish it. We just aren't there yet, but today is a great learning experience moving forward."
Byers, who scattered three hits, walked three and struck out nine, and Wilmington junior starter Connor Dempsay battled pitch-for-pitch throughout the opening six frames. Dempsay, an all-state running back this past fall for the Wildcats, gave up only four hits, two unearned runs, walking only one with seven punchouts.
"Joey had a great outing, but we have to get him to get ahead 0-2 sooner instead of falling behind 2-0 and battling back and striking a guy out," Albert said. "Because of that and the pitch count, this is the second straight outing (the last against Reed-Custer) he's had a solid game going, but had to come out after max pitches. He just needs to keep working on getting ahead of hitters."
The Wildcats (12-8, 6-2) broke the scoreless deadlock in the fifth, as left-handed hitting Brock Bolser took a Byers fastball the other way for a triple to left-center and scored shortly after on a wild pitch. The Bulldogs tied things in their half of the frame, starting with a one-out single off the bat of Brett Dresbach (2-for-3). Pinch runner Logan Colter then stole second before a two-out throwing error allowed him to score.
Streator took a 2-1 lead and advantage of another Wilmington miscue in the sixth. Peyton Phillis began the inning reaching on a bobble at short and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter James McGurk.
"Everybody in the ballpark knew he was bunting, but he still was able to get down a perfect bunt and move the runner over," said Albert.
Byers then lined a Dempsay pitch to right-center for a double to bring home Phillis and give the Bulldogs momentum.
"Connor has been pitching really well for us, and coming into today he is our No. 2 pitcher, but it is close between him and (No. 1 Garrett Roth)," said Wilmington coach Mike Bushnell. "The game plan, like it always is, was for Connor to throw strikes and not give up any free bases. For him to only walk one and not give up an earned run today was great to see."
Then with two away and Byers now at shortstop and losing pitcher Sember on the hill, Wilmington came alive. Dempsay walked and was safe at second on a fielder's choice/throwing error on a grounder by Bolser. Josh Jones was then hit by a pitch to load the bases before William Van Duyne lined an RBI single and Mark Youngquist followed by smacking a two-run double off the left-field fence.
"The kids never gave up," said Bushnell. "Even on a few of those balls we didn't hit too great, the kids were busting it down the line and putting pressure on the defense. It was nice to see our shortstop who had a couple errors in the field come up with a big hit in the last inning.
"Sometimes you have to get lucky. I think we were a little lucky today."
At SHS Athletic Fields, Streator
Wilmington 4, Streator 2
WILMINGTON (4) — Dempsay p 3-1-1-0, Bolser cf 3-2-1-0, Jones 1b 3-1-0-0, Van Duyne rf 3-0-1-1, Youngquist ss 4-0-1-2, Hopwood dh 4-0-1-0, Gholson 2b 0-0-0-0, Long c 3-0-0-0, Lewis 3b 1-0-0-0, Hainline lf 3-0-0-0. Totals 27-4-5-3.
STREATOR (2) — Phillis cf 3-1-1-0, Vickers ss/3b 2-0-0-0, McGurk ph 0-0-0-0, Byers p/ss 2-0-1-1, Sharisky 2b 3-0-0-0, Benckendorf c 3-0-0-0, Grabowski dh 3-0-0-0, Sember 3b/p 0-0-0-0, Dresbach 1b 3-0-2-0, Colter cr/pr 0-1-0-0, Cantrell rf 2-0-0-0, Gonzalez ph 1-0-0-0, Telford 3-0-0-0, McKinley pr 0-0-0-0. Totals 25-2-4-1.
Wilmington (12-8, 6-2) 000 010 3 — 4 5 2
Streator (8-10, 6-5) 000 011 0 — 2 4 2
DPT — Wilmington 1, Streator 1. LOB — Wilmington 8, Streator 4. 2B — Youngquist, Byers. 3B — Bolser. SB — Phillis, Colter. CS — Hopwood, McKinley. SAC — McGurk. HBP — Lewis (by Byers), Jones (by Sember).
Wilmington ip r er h bb k
Dempsay (W) 7.0 2 0 4 1 7
Byers 6.2 1 1 3 3 9
Sember (L) 0.1 3 0 2 1 1