Eau Claire Regis played small ball to come from behind and then rode the slants of Cade Osborn and Luke Rooney to close out.
Three runs in the bottom of the fifth got the Ramblers on top in a 6-3 win over Fall Creek in a Cloverbelt Conference opener Tuesday at windy and chilly Bollinger Field.
“Mentally, it was a good win,” Regis coach Andy Niese said. “We were down 3-1 against a good pitcher but we were able to put the ball in play using a couple bunts. You could say we grinded this one out.”
After an inning opening error in the fifth, Jordan Ruppelt and Joe Edge laid down sacrifice bunts and were safe with one run in. A double steal plated a second and Dayton Gutsch’s sacrifice fly to right accounted for the third run.
“It’s a big early conference win,” said Osborn. “(Marcus) Cline was tough at the beginning but we were able to come back and score some runs.”
Osborn, a junior right-hander, gave up just one hit in his five innings of work, surviving the Crickets’ 3-run second to allow only two baserunners the next two innings and then saw Rooney come on to allow just one runner in his two impressive innings to get a save.
“The cold played a factor but you just have to fight through it,” Osborn said. “I got warmed up as the game went on.”
Fall Creek seemed in a good position with a two-run lead early and ace Kline on the mound. But the hard-throwing junior righthander had trouble finding the plate, throwing 88 pitches and walking six in his three innings before giving way to Brady Nicks in the fourth.
“We knew we were facing a good pitcher, but we had some good at bats,” Niese said. “We put an emphasis on only swinging at good pitches.”
Fall Creek Coach Mike Johnson made it clear it wasn’t all Cline’s fault.
“It’s early season and it was his first start throwing off a mound,” Johnson said. “We made some key errors and Regis made the plays while we didn’t. Give Regis credit.”
The Ramblers pinned the loss on Nicks, who worked the last three innings. But only one of the four runs he allowed was earned.
The only hit in the Crickets’ 3-run second was by Gavin Scheppke. But they took advantage of a two-out, nobody-on error to capitalize on three walks and a hit batter.
Besides Gutsch, Michael Beckfield, Ruppelt and Tristan Root drove in runs for the Ramblers while Jaxon Kostka had the game’s only extra base blow, a double to the left field fence in the fourth.
Regis takes a 3-0 record into Thursday’s game at Bollinger against Stanley-Boyd. Fall Creek was left 1-1 after beating Elk Mound on Monday.