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Johnson: Trevor Lines is the key for Morris baseball

MORRIS – It can be said that as star shortstop Trevor Lines goes, so goes the Morris baseball team. Never has that been more true than Saturday morning.

Most of the game Lines played against Coal City, he would prefer to forget. Normally a defensive standout, Lines made two of the Redskins’ three errors. Alhough he walked and was hit by a pitch during his first four plate appearances, Lines also was twice retired with runners on base as the Redskins went 4 for 21 during the first six innings in such situations.

The bottom of the seventh inning brought retribution for Lines and for Morris. His two-out, two-run single was the single biggest blow delivered by the Morris offense during a six-run rally in a 10-9 win. Lines then scored the winning run when Grant Schluntz reached on an error.

“It definitely felt good, but just more for the team to come through with the win after playing the way we did as a whole,” Lines said. “For the first six innings of that game, we definitely didn’t play our best, or even close to it, and it was good to finally get the bats going and get something started in the last inning to come out with the win.”

It was a comeback that I’ll admit I didn’t see coming. Morris had its leadoff hitter reach base in five of the first six innings and hadn’t sustained anything, scoring no more than one run in any one inning. The Coalers had hard-throwing righty Brad Littleton waiting in the wings should they run into trouble in the seventh – a trump card coach Jerry McDowell played when the Redskins loaded the bases with nobody out. The Coalers had made a couple of errors in the six innings, but their defense wasn’t so bad that its coming unhinged seemed imminent.

What I wanted to know afterward was whether or not the Redskins thought they could or would come back.

“I think we did get a little bit down during the game,” Lines said. “But the coaching staff and a lot of the senior leaders did a good job of making sure everyone was up and knowing that we could still pull this one out, still win the game, no matter how badly we had played in the first few innings.”

Overjoyed isn’t the word I would use to describe Morris coach Todd Kein when he lounged on the Redskins’ dugout bench afterward. But a slight grin remained on his face as he talked about his team winning a game he knew it should have lost.

“We did get the win, but certainly there are some things of concern that we experienced today that we have to put a stop to going forward, or else we’re going to be on the losing end more times than not,” Kein said.

“In my mind, our back shouldn’t have been against the wall. I thought we dug ourselves a hole. I mean, I give Coal City all the credit in the world, they came out swinging the bats and aggressive, and they were moving the baseball. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like we showed up with the right mentality today, and I think when you come out flat like that against good competition, they’re going to make you pay, and they did.”

On the other side, McDowell wasn’t pleased, as you’d expect, following his team’s three-error meltdown in the bottom of the seventh. I liked the way McDowell was able to remember the positives – Joe Quinn’s five-RBI day, the Coalers’ ability to limit damage as the Redskins got runners on base in every inning – even with the seventh fresh in his mind.

“We played well for six innings,” McDowell said. “We’ve made some good strides in the last two weeks, but we can’t let that kinda stuff happen to us. We have to make the routine play at the end of the game with two outs.

“Morris hustled – they got four hit-by-pitches, took a couple close walks and had three or four bunt hits in the game. They kept scratching and clawing and put the ball in play and put pressure on us. You gotta hand it to Morris. They didn’t quit when it was 8-2 like it was there.”

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