COAL CITY – Coal City’s Jerry McDowell will have to wait another day, at least, to earn his 1,000th career victory as a baseball head coach.
McDowell took 473 high school wins and 526 grade school wins into Wednesday’s Interstate Eight Conference game against Sandwich at John Cullick Field. Sandwich spoiled the party, scoring three times in the top of the seventh inning to win, 4-1.
The Coalers offense produced just three hits against Sandwich pitcher Luke Hardisty, who needed 86 pitches to go the distance. Sandwich avenged an earlier 13-2 loss to the Coalers.
“Our approach at the plate wasn’t very good today,” McDowell said. “We swung at a lot of pitches that was out of the zone, and on top of that, they were curveballs, first-pitch curves, it kind of sets us up for the rest of the at-bat the wrong way.”
Austin Smith and Zach Fordon led off the seventh with consecutive singles for Sandwich (6-5-1, 3-2-1), and a Kevin Cunz grounder rolled through the legs of the Coalers third baseman, with Smith scoring the go-ahead run on the play. A two-run single by the next hitter, Austin Clark, ended the outing for Coal City starter Jared Skubic.
“Their pitcher was doing a nice job,” Sandwich coach Jason Van Pelt said. “It’s not like we’re just torching the base hits out there. We were getting on in kind of lucky ways – infield hits, stuff like that. Scoring a lot of runs is all about timely hitting. We didn’t get them early, but I got a lot of confidence in my guys.”
Reliever Ricky Collins held Sandwich down from there, but the Coalers (8-8, 4-2) went down in order in the bottom of the seventh.
“Skubic did a nice job [Wednesday], our sophomore pitcher. Threw the ball really well and had a lot of ground balls,” McDowell said. “We got out of it again, we got out of it again. We don’t have a lot of strikeout pitchers. They put the ball in play. ... Eventually it was gonna happen, and unfortunately it did in the seventh.”
Each team scored its first run in the second inning. Luke Hardisty walked and came home on a Smith infield single for Sandwich, though the Indians also left the bases loaded for a second consecutive inning. Coal City’s scored when Ricky Collins hit a one-out single and was driven home on another single by Nick Micetich.
The Coalers will try again to get McDowell to the milestone again today when they host Illiana Christian. Their next two attempts, if necessary, also would be at Cullick Field – against Manteno on Friday, and against Seneca on Monday.