SENECA — It has been said that the triple is the most exciting play in baseball. If that's the case, then Nate Natyshok is officially the most exciting player to ever play for Coal City.
Natyshok hit triples in three consecutive at-bats in Tuesday night's 26-14 Interstate Eight Conference win over Seneca, finishing 4 for 6 with six RBIs. It was the second game this season in which he had three triples, having turned the three-bagger hat trick against Rochester earlier. It also gave him eight for the year, breaking the school record held by his uncle, Nick Natyshok.
"I was seeing the ball real well and I was loose at the plate," Natyshok said. "It was nice coming up with guys on base because I knew I was going to get something to hit. When everyone gets going like that, you want to keep it going.
"It feels good to have the bragging rights in the family. It turned out that we needed all those runs. The score looks like a football game."
Coal City put a touchdown on the board in the first inning, taking a 7-0 lead. Natyshok had an RBI single in that frame, which was followed by a three-run homer by Dominic Durando. Durando did more than his share of damage as well, going 3 for 7 with two doubles, a homer and six RBIs as the Coalers (19-11, 10-4) won for the 11th time in their last 12 games.
"We haven't hit like this all year," Coal City coach Jerry McDowell said. "Coming into this game, our team batting average was .268. I think that went up a bit tonight.
"We have been coming through with clutch hits with two outs during this streak we're on and making productive outs like moving runners up a base. We were able to find a lot of holes tonight."
Coal City finished with 23 hits. Danny Darling, Cody Onsen and winning pitcher Brandon Wills all had three hits, while Dylan Hakey had a double and a home run.
The Coalers pushed the lead to 11-0 after their half of the third before Seneca (7-25, 2-11) got to Wills, who entered the game having thrown back-to-back shutouts. With one out, Danny Hamilton (2 for 3, 2 RBI) and Brian Bergeson delivered consecutive RBI singles and Matt Wilson (2 for 5, 2 homers, 7 RBI) had an RBI grounder. The Irish also scored on an error to cut the lead to 11-4.
Coal City got three more in the fourth when Onsen doubled in a pair of runs and scored on the first of Natyshok's triples. In the bottom of the fifth, Wilson launched a two-run homer to left. Later in the inning, an RBI double by Logan Pifer closed the gap to 14-7.
"We did not stop swinging the bat," Seneca coach Kirk Houchin said. "I never thought we would score 14 runs in a game and not win. But hand it to Coal City. They hit it all over the place, too."
Natyshok's second triple drove in a run in the sixth, and he scored on a double by Durando. With two outs in the top of the seventh, the score stood at 16-7. Then Coal City embarked on a 10-run rally. Natyshok contributed a two-run triple and a bases-loaded walk in the inning, while Hakey hit a two-run homer.
Seneca wasn't done, either, putting up seven runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh. Wilson highlighted the output with a grand slam.
"What a senior day for Matt Wilson," Houchin said. "Danny Hamilton also had a nice day at the plate, and Trent Nugent hit the ball hard all day.
"We hit the ball well and our pitchers threw strikes. It's not like we were walking everyone. Coal City just hit the ball well, too."
"We were 8-10 at one point and now we're 19-11," McDowell said. "We've been better with our pitch selection and putting the ball in play."