CHANNAHON – Winning baseball teams are usually built on pitching and defense, combined with timely hitting. Channahon's 12-year-old Bronco team is following that recipie to the letter so far in hosting the Bronco North Zone Tournament.
Strong pitching performances were turned in by Jared Butts, Brandon Keyster and Tim Barys as Channahon rolled to an 11-1 win Friday against Grand Ledge, Michigan. Coupled with Thursday's 6-1 win over Kankakee, Channahon has allowed only two runs in two games, putting the team in great shape to reach Sunday's semifinals no matter what happens Saturday. If there is a tie among teams for the final semifinal spot, the first tiebreaker is runs allowed.
"Nothing is guaranteed for us until we win a third game," Channahon coach Jason Bisbee said. "But, with only giving up two runs so far in two games, unless we get blown out pretty bad, things look pretty good."
Channahon looked pretty good in all phases of the game during Friday's win.
Grand Ledge was able to go ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the second, when Will Jerzak led off with a single and went to second in a single by Caleb Todd. Jerzak then stole third as Channahon pitcher Jared Butts struck out Ryan Hookey, and, when the throw to third sailed over the third baseman's head into left field, Jerzak came in to score.
That was pretty much it as far as mistakes by Channahon, though. Later in the inning, Todd tried to steal third, but this time catcher Shane Ooms' throw was right on the money for the out. Butts then induced a comebacker to end the threat. Ooms also threw out a runner trying to steal in the fifth to end the inning.
"We started out a little slow," Bisbee said. "I think we might have been a little anxious playing against a team from out of state. We had already played Kankakee earlier this year, so we knew what to expect. We saw this Michigan team come back from being down 9-3 late yesterday and win 16-10, so we knew they could score in bunches. We knew they were a good hitting team and that we would have to be prepared on defense.
"Our guys made the plays they had to make, and our pitchers threw strikes. That's the name of the game. Don't give the other team runs."
They didn't give up another.
Butts allowed just two hits in his three innings of work, and Keyster followed with two hitless innings that included four strikeouts. His only blemish was a walk in the fifth to Jed Branscum, whom Ooms promptly threw out trying to steal. Barys came on to pitch the sixth and seventh, getting the side in order in the sixth. After allowing a hit with one out in the seventh, he got a fielder's choice, then struck out the game's final batter. In all, Channahon pitchers allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out 10.
Meanwhile, the offense didn't take long to get the lead back and keep extending it. In the top of the third with two outs, Keyster and Barys each drew a walk before blooped an RBI single to center to score Keyster with the tying run. Butts followed with a grounder to third that was booted, allowing Barys to score the lead run. In the top of the fourth, Matt Sitar led off with a single and Ooms drew a walk. A wild pitch sent runners to second and third for pinch-hitter Blake Beckwith, who promptly singled to left to score both runners for a 4-1 lead. He then stole second and third before a grounder to short by Cooper Maskel drove him home to make it 5-1. In the top of the fifth with two outs and nobody on, Sitar and Ooms each singled, putting runners on first and third. After Ooms stole second, Beckwith delivered his second two-run single of the game for a 7-1 advantage.
"That was awesome for Blake," Bisbee said about the 2 for 2, four-RBI performance off the bench. "Our kids aren't used to sitting that long, so for him to sit for a few innings and come in and produce like that was a real spark for us."
With one out in the sixth, Barys doubled to right and scored on a single to left by Tyrell, who took second on the throw. Tyrell then stole third and scored on a wild pitch to make it 9-1. Channahon capped the scoring with two runs in the top of the seventh, with RBIs off the bats of Jared Bisbee and Keyster.
"All three of our pitchers threw well today," Bisbee said. "It had been 12 days since they had pitched in a game, but they were sharp. It is good to have all of our options available to get that needed win.
"I liked that there was no quit in this team. We got behind, but we came right back and got the lead. Guys were picking each other up on the bench. We were able to find holes with the balls we hit and put together a couple of runs every inning. This was a big improvement from Thursday, especially against a team as good as Michigan."