A sunny, calm Friday afternoon provided the setting for Truman’s baseball team to put together a winning combination that’s been elusive too often this season – clutch defense, just enough offense and the steely reserve to stifle an opposition’s possible rally.
Sophomore pitcher Brayden Jensen scattered eight hits and a hit batsman in a complete-game effort, and the Patriots scored two runs without a hit in the third inning and cut down the potential tying run at the plate in the fifth to help preserve a 3-2 Suburban Middle Six win over visiting St. Joseph Central.
“We’ve been in games, and usually it’s one big inning that beats us, whether it’s an error or walk to start it,” said Truman coach John Eglich, whose team improved to 2-10 overall and 2-3 in the conference. “We’ve played some really good teams, and we’ve got a lot of young kids, but we’re getting better and making progress.
“I thought Jensen shut it down in the end. He looked stronger as the game went on.”
Jensen didn’t have a 1-2-3 inning until the seventh, but he didn’t walk a batter, stranded a runner in each of the first six innings, picked off another runner and struck out six, four of them looking.
To start the seventh, second baseman Christian Janota made a diving stop on Aaron Moutray’s grounder seemingly heading to right field, and his lob throw just beat Moutray. Jensen then got a strikeout and line-out to finish the game.
“We’ve been into a lot of games,” Jensen said. “We just haven’t had that big hit or big play on defense, and today we got it. Christian made that play in the seventh.”
“It’s easy to talk about needing somebody to step up and make a play; it’s another thing to do it,” Eglich said. “That’s big because it’s the leadoff runner. They could bunt him over and steal, get a hit and tie it. Being 1-10, I don’t like our chances in extra innings having had the lead.”
Another play that loomed just as large came two innings earlier, after Central’s Trevor Moeck doubled with two outs. Nick Gutzmer bounced a single through the left side, but left fielder Trent Dorall’s throw home beat Moeck and catcher Nick Reilly kept the ball through the ensuing collision – for which Moeck got ejected.
“Great play by Trent in left field and Nick Reilly at the plate,” said Jensen, who had the perfect view from backing up the play.
“Trent Dorall has been up from JV a couple times, and now he’s here for good,” Eglich said, “and Nick Reilly stands in there, shows some guts, takes a lick and holds on.”
The Patriots managed just three hits but drew five walks off Indians (5-5, 1-3) starter Jacob Gill, the first one (Janota) coming home when Van Oswald belted a first-inning double.
Truman stranded two runners each in the first two innings, but in the third a one-out throwing error, wild pitch, walk and stolen base put runners at second and third. Nick Adrales’ sacrifice fly to right plated Jensen, and after Dorall drew another walk, he got himself in a long enough rundown to allow Reid Titus to trot home on a delayed double-steal.
Moeck’s two-out single plated Moutray in the third for Central’s first run, and Mason Nagle scored in the fourth when Titus couldn’t handle a funny-hop grounder to first.
But Jensen kept his cool and got just enough help.
“To start it was kind of nerve-wracking, but once you get into it, it’s confidence,” the sophomore said. “The defense played really well today, and we had good run support.
“I felt in control with my fastball, and they were swinging at a lot of curveballs, so that helped.”
“We have a tendency, once we fall behind, to stay there,” Eglich said, “and today we kept the lead.”