SJ-O baseball in SVC driver's seat
CHAMPAIGN — St. Joseph-Ogden and St. Thomas More could have played a competitive baseball game until the sun set.
They nearly did Tuesday.
The visiting Spartans took control of the Sangamon Valley Conference title race with a 7-6 win in 12 innings on the Sabers’ home field, just before it became too dark to play.
“It was almost two different games,” SJ-O coach Josh Haley said after Tuesday’s lasted 3 hour, 12 minutes. “We didn’t play very well defensively the first six innings, but at this point, we told them it was about making plays.”
Louis Acklin, Brock Immke, Chase Gadau and Bryce Stewart did for the Spartans (19-6, 12-0 SVC). Acklin drove in the go-ahead run with a fielder’s choice in the top of the 12th to snap a 6-6 tie and score Gadau (2 for 6) from third base.
“My whole game plan was to just get the ball in play,” said Acklin, who was 1 for 6 with two RBI. “I did, we scored and it feels good. I’ve been struggling a little bit the past couple games and to help score the game-winner feels great.”
Immke threw 52/3 innings of one-hit relief, striking out nine to record the win.
“He pitched basically a whole game out there, and shoot, he shut them down for the most part,” said Acklin, who started and lasted 61/3 innings. “He pitched a hell of a game.”
Stewart (2 for 3) reached base in all five of his plate appearances and threw out three potential base stealers.
“He’s a great catcher and has a great arm back there,” Immke said. “Anytime there’s a runner on base, I know Stewart can get them out.”
STM (17-7, 12-1) trailed 6-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth before rallying to force extra innings.
“I’m not surprised because this is not their first rodeo,” said Nory Loschen, STM’s assistant coach who filled in for head coach Steve Rear, whose father recently died. “The kids have to have in the back of their mind that they’re going to battle until they drag me off the field.”
STM can share the SVC title with SJ-O if the Sabers beat the Spartans on their home field Thursday. SJ-O can win it outright with a win today at Clifton Central and a win Thursday.
“These next two are going to be huge,” Acklin said. “We just have to find a way to win these last two.”