MORRIS – The clutch hits were not always there for Morris on Wednesday, but it found ways to score enough against Ottawa in Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference crossover baseball.
With Morris down a run, Grant Schluntz walked, and Tyler Bordner and Geno Persico were hit by pitches to load the bases in the bottom of the fourth. Morris No. 9 hitter Cody Niewinski hit an RBI single to get the Redskins even – it was their only hit with runners in scoring position, in seven tries, for the game – but Ottawa pitcher Weston Hoffman struck out the top two hitters in the Redskins' order.
With a 1-1 count on Morris hitter Trevor Lines, Hoffman uncorked a pitch to the screen. Bordner scored, and an error as the ball was being returned to Hoffman allowed courtesy runner Justin McTague to score, adding an insurance run. The score remained unchanged from there as Morris claimed a 6-4 victory.
"I was trying to be aggressive and take the next base," said McTague, who earlier had scored from first (with help from an Ottawa misplay) on a Kyle Hill single. "I rounded third and saw the trajectory of the ball going into the dirt. It got past the pitcher at home, so I just took home."
Hill walked and scored for the Redskins (5-4) in their half of the first, and a solo Schluntz home run highlighted a two-run second.
Ottawa (2-5) countered with a three-run third, scoring on a Kyle Wallbaum bases-loaded walk and a Cahill Horner two-run single. The Pirates took a short-lived 4-3 lead in the fourth when Nick Quick doubled, and Seth Coffey later delivered an RBI single.
Morris starter Tim Smyk (2-1) held the Pirates down otherwise in his six-plus innings, although he allowed nine hits, walked four and hit a batter. Smyk had six strikeouts.
"He'd be the first to admit he wasn't at his best today," Morris coach Todd Kein said of Smyk. "All eyes are on him when he's pitching. This is his third year with us. Everyone expects the world out of him. He knows he's got to be better, especially heading into next week, into conference play. We know he'll make the adjustments. He's our guy."
When Smyk walked Horner to begin the Ottawa seventh, Kein replaced him with fellow righty Brock Kukman. After Kukman recorded two outs, Quick singled, and Michael Donovan hit a smash that a lunging Schluntz caught near first base.
"When the sun starts to come down, it gets really hard for me to see, and I'm not much of a sunglasses-wearer. It kind of bothers me," Schluntz said. "It was right in the sun, it was hard to [see], but I'm glad that I stuck through and ended the game."