BOWLING GREEN — Good pitching. Solid defense. Timely hitting.
Those three pillars have been the trademark of the Jonathan Alder baseball program under head coach Craig Kyle.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers (21-6) all three of those aspects of the game weren’t as good as they needed to be in a Division II Regional semifinal contest against Lexington Thursday at Bowling Green’s Carter Park.
Alder had its chances, but in the end fell 5-2, bringing an abrupt end to the season.
“I just told them that they made a few more plays than we did,” Kyle said. “Defensively you’ve got to make the routine plays in the clutch situation and we didn’t. Offensively you have to put the ball in play when you have opportunities to score and we didn’t both times.
“When you get this far in the tournament, there are no little things. I know people want to say those are little things but they’re not, they’re gigantic things and they came back to cost us.”
Alder loaded the bases in the top of the first inning but was unable to plate even a single run. Ian Gehres and Cole Schrock both drew walks off of Lexington starter Ben Vore. But a bunt attempt by Preston Eisnaugle was popped up, the Minuteman catcher Jacob Odson wasn’t able to catch it but was able to get Gehres on the force at third.
Hunter Maynard struck out looking, but Cal Duckworth was safe on an infield single so Alder had the bases loaded with two outs. Austin Hurley came to the plate and hit a shot down the line which was fielded by the third baseman who stepped on the bag to end the inning.
Lexington got on the scoreboard first in the bottom of the second when Vore hit what looked to be a routine grounder to Pioneers third baseman Hunter Maynard. Maynard fielded it but took a little long delivering the throw to first. Vore stole second and scored on an RBI single by Odson, making it 1-0 Lexington after two innings.
Alder answered back in the third when Gehres walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Schrock. Eisnaugle doubled in Gehres and eventually scored on an error, giving Alder the 2-1 advantage heading to the home half of the third. Lexington tied the game 2-2 on a sacrifice fly by Jared Strickler.
Alder threatened again in the fourth when Evan Martin reached on an error, Nate Smith doubled off the fence in centerfield and Gehres was intentionally walked. But Schrock struck out and Eisnaugle popped out to the shortstop.
The score remained tied until the home half of the fifth when the game deciding runs were scored. The inning started off with another grounder to Maynard at third. He fielded it cleanly but was again a little slow getting the ball across the infield allowing Hunter Biddle to reach.
Kyle went to his bullpen to get Logan Smith. He struck out the first batter he faced, but Biddle stole second, leaving an open base at first. The Pioneers then intentionally walked Vore to put runners on first and second with just one out.
Smith got Josh Aiello to ground back to him but his throw to first was wide of Gehres, which allowed the baserunner to score from second. A pair of RBI singles by the Minutemen and the home team was suddenly up 5-2.
“It’s nobody’s fault, they didn’t do it on purpose,” the coach said. “But if you get this far in the tournament you can’t take any play for granted just because you’ve done it before, we’ll learn from it. That’s the difference they made routine plays and we didn’t.”
Alder got the leadoff runner on base in the sixth, but Logan Smith was thrown out at third trying to advance two bases on an errand pickoff play. Alder came to the plate in the seventh with the top of its lineup. Gehres walked again but was doubled off of first base on a line drive hit by Schrock to the shortstop. Eisnaugle flew out to center to end the game.
“Even in the seventh inning we had the top of the lineup we still believed,” Kyle said. “We got our leadoff hitter on, I don’t think there was any quit in anybody and nobody thought it was over until it was over.
“All year when somebody scored we answered back and we did there early, but just couldn’t answer there in the end.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.