COAL CITY – Through its first 14 games of the season, the most runs the Coal City baseball team had scored in a game was seven.
On a beautiful day for baseball Saturday, the Coalers nearly doubled that in a 13-5 win over nonconference rival Morris.
"We really struggled at the plate at the beginning of the year," Coal City coach Jerry McDowell said. "We came into today hitting about .240 as a team. But, we have been swinging the bats better lately and we really swung them well today.
"Our pitching and defense have been solid all year, so as soon as the bats get going, we will be tough to beat."
Morris (9-5) found that out the hard way. After scoring twice in the top of the first, the Redskins saw Coal City put up 11 unanswered runs before moving the scoreboard again in the top of the sixth.
Much of that was due to the pitching of Coal City's Justin Dabulskis, who didn't allow a run and faced the minimum 12 hitters in the four innings after the first that he pitched.
"I was just trying to keep my head in the game," Dabulskis said. "I made some mistakes in the first inning, but after we got the lead, I just concentrated on throwing strikes. It was nice knowing that the offense had my back.
"It's always good to beat a rival and [potential] regional team like Morris."
With one out in the top of the first, Morris' Danny Borgstrom hit a bloop single to right. the first of his three hits that led the Redskin offense. Borgstrom then stole second and went to third on a wild pitch before coming in to score on a single by Kameron Dransfeldt. Courtesy runner Nathan Wantland then score second and scored on a single by Tyler Dunne for a 2-0 Morris lead.
Coal City had early scoring on its mind as well, and answered with three runs in the bottom of the first. With one out, Jake Brnca singled, then scored on a double to left-center by Blake Harseim. It was one of two doubles for Harseim, who also walked and was hit by a pitch to reach base in all four plate appearances. After Payton Hutchings walked, Alex Friddle hit a single to left that scored Harseim and sent Hutchings to third. Zack Nolan followed with a grounder to the mound, and Hutchings scored from third on the throw to first.
Dabulskis retired Morris in order in the second and, with one out in the bottom of the inning, Dean Moir gave Coal City a 4-2 lead with a solo home run to left. Keegan Gagliardo then singled and Brnca walked before Harseim doubled to left, scoring Gagliardo. Hutchings followed with a sacrifice fly to center for a 6-2 Coaler lead and an error on a ball hit by Nolan scored Harseim for a 7-2 edge. Nolan was then picked off first, but stayed in a rundown long enough for Friddle, who had walked, to score and make it 8-2 after two innings.
"We just stopped competing after the first inning," Morris coach Todd Kein said. "We faced a little adversity and shut down. We need to make adjustments during the game. We had some times when mental weakness led to physical problems. This is not the type of momentum we wanted heading into conference Monday [against Sycamore]. It will be a long conference season if we keep playing like we did today."
Coal City (10-5) scored on an RBI double by Gagliardo in the third and added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth to go ahead 11-2. Morris got three in the sixth. Michael Metesh started the inning with a single up the middle, followed by walks to Dransfeldt and Ben Larson to load the bases. Dunne was hit by a pitch to force home Metesh and Andy Peters followed with an infield single to drive home courtesy runner Nathan Wantland. Another run scored when Kenny Graman grounded into a double play. Coal City's final two runs came on a two-out, two-run single by Austin Mellen.
"This was a typical Morris-Coal City game," McDowell said. "We knew Morris would keep fighting, which they did. Justin really settled in nice after the first inning and Blake continues to hit the ball real well. And, we got a good relief outing on the mound by Beau Wills. This was a good win for us."