DeKALB – A nightmarish seventh inning from DeKalb allowed Morris to score all its runs during the final frame Tuedsay and defeat the Barbs, 7-1.
DeKalb starter Bryce Wheeler was excellent on the mound, striking out 11 batters and without allowing a single run. But he hit his 105-pitch count after the sixth inning and wasn’t allowed to finish the game with DeKalb leading, 1-0, to begin the seventh.
Morris coach Todd Kein said Wheeler’s performance was one of the best he’s seen all season.
“I give a lot of credit to their starting pitcher,” Kein said. “He pitched a hell of a game and certainly did not deserve that fate.”
Everything went downhill for the Barbs (2-11) when Wheeler came out. DeKalb reliever Jarret Sykes never was able to find a groove, allowing the leadoff batter, Morris’ Chatten Dryfhout, to reach first base safely after DeKalb catcher Maxwell Lange failed to field a hopper in front of the plate.
Lange committed his second straight error during the next at-bat, when he attempted to pick off Dryfhout at first base. His throw went over Barbs first baseman Matt Howard’s head and into right field, which allowed Dryfhout to advance to second. Lange had another wild throw from the plate to first base as Morris tied the game at 1.
Sykes then hit Jacob Overbeck, and Morris catcher Patrick McCabe slammed a single past the infield to put Morris up, 2-1. Morris shortstop Danny Borgstrom crushed a triple into left-center field to give his team a 4-1 lead and put the game out of reach.
Despite five hits given up by Sykes and three errors from Lange, DeKalb coach Dedric Wright didn’t blame the loss on either player.
“I understand [Lange] wants to make a play, but we also have to understand the situation,” Wright said. “We didn’t need a throw down to first in that situation. Unless the guy had a huge lead, [which] he didn’t. That’s something we’ll have to learn from.
“It’s going to be a broken record. Defensively, we’ve got to get better. If we don’t get better defensively, we’re going to keep losing ball games.”
DeKalb center fielder Noah Valin scored his team’s only run during the first inning, when he was brought home by teammate Matthew Searls.
Valin said DeKalb needs to improve as a team if it wants to end its six-game losing streak.
“We just need to reset and come out these next couple games with more fire,” said Valin who went 2 for 4 at the plate. “We really need to get the insanity going with this team and drop all the negativity and come out here and play positive and play as a team.”
Wheeler was disappointed after having to watch the final inning from the Barbs’ dugout.
“It [stinks] not being able to go out there,” he said. “It’s all my fault in the end. I got my pitch count up high in the earlier innings. It’s something I’ll have to work on the next time I’m out there.”
Morris starting pitcher Dawson Moore was just as good as Wheeler. Moore struck out 10, allowing two walks and two hits through six innings.
“I’ve been at Morris since the late 90s,” Kein said. “We’ve seen a lot of good pitchers come through, that was one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen as a coach. With the context of the game and how well [Wheeler] was doing and the fact we were chasing for a better part of the game. …They both still had fuel in the tank. I thought they both deserved to finish the game.”
By the numbers: Wheeler finished with 11 strikeouts, three hits and three walks. He wasn’t allowed to pitch the seventh inning because he reached the maximum pitch count of 105 pitches allowed by the IHSA.
Beyond the stats: Valin trucked Borgstrom while rounding second base during the first inning. Borgstrom was slow to get up, but stayed in the game and had a triple in the seventh to extend Morris’ lead to 4-1.
They said it: “We have leaders on this team, and I know that we will get to [winning] again,” Valin said. “We just need to cut down on defensive errors and timely hitting is a big key for us. Pitching has been real good this year, but those two things are big for our success.”
Up next: DeKalb travels to Morris at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to wrap up the three-game series.