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Tit, tat, toast: Dukes lose rubber match

Geneseo returns favor, pads lead late in NIB-12 West tilt

Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 12:21 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, April 12, 2013 3:55 p.m. CST
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Dixon senior John Thomas fires a pitch against Geneseo during the teams' Northern Illinois Big 12 West rubber match Thursday at Veterans Memorial Park. The Maple Leafs won 12-2 in six innings.

DIXON – Things tend to even out when it comes to baseball. What went around for Dixon on Tuesday came around to bite the Dukes on Thursday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Field.

Two days after blowing open a close game with some late runs in Geneseo, the Dukes had the tables turned on them Thursday. The Maple Leafs scored 11 runs in the fifth and sixth innings to win the rubber match of a Northern Illinois Big 12 West series, 12-2 in six innings.

“It was tit for tat tonight,” Dixon coach Sam Gallucci said. “They had some very nice hits in key situations, and we couldn’t get anything to fall in at the right time ... and that’s what we did to them on Tuesday.”

Both teams had plenty of opportunities in the early going, but starters John Thomas and Zach Alexander worked around them. The Dukes (3-7, 1-2) stranded runners in scoring position in every inning, while the Leafs left runners on base in every inning but the first, when Thomas picked off a baserunner after a two-out error.

Cal Jarrett’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the third broke the scoreless tie, then Geneseo (8-4, 2-1) answered with Joe Thomas’ RBI single in the top of the fourth.

But the Leafs finally got to John Thomas in the fifth. Zach Riffe led off with a swinging bunt off the end of his bat, then a double and a walk after a flyout to right loaded the bases. Adam Stenzel ripped a two-run double, then Trevor Craig had an RBI on a bad-hop grounder to first. Jon Solberg followed with another two-run double, John Thomas.

Joe Thomas greeted reliever Riley Mehrens with an RBI double, then Riffe capped the seven-run, 11-batter inning with an RBI sac fly to center.

“We reversed things on them tonight, and I was happy with how we bounced back [from Tuesday],” Geneseo coach Steve Brucher said. “Joe’s big hit tied the score, and I think that proved to the guys that we could knock in those runners in scoring position. We made their pitcher throw some stressful pitches, and eventually we got the job done.”

The Leafs added four more runs in the sixth. Stenzel drove in a runner from third with two outs, but an error opened the door for an RBI single by Joe Thomas and a two-run single by Riffe.

Eight Leafs had hits, and seven had at least two, led by three apiece from Joe Thomas and Alex Craig. Thomas, Stenzel and Riffe had three RBIs each. Alexander (3-0) struck out eight and walked three in five innings, allowing one earned run and three hits with four walks.

“It felt good to get the bat on the ball and just break through,” Stenzel said. “I was only thinking about driving in one run, but then I got the opportunity to get two, and I just tried to drive the ball in a gap. I think it helped all of us relax, especially Z [Alexander]; he was doing a great job, and we finally got him the lead.”

Nate Grocke led off the bottom of the sixth with a double, then scored on Jake Tavitas’ two-out double to finish the scoring. Jarrett led the Dukes with two hits, while John Thomas (0-4) gave up seven earned runs and 10 hits with four strikeouts and three walks in 4 1/3 innings.

“John pitched well for four innings, but those stressful situations finally got to us,” Gallucci said. “As his pitch count went up, the pitches started rising, and Geneseo took advantage. Once they got that big inning, it was tough for us to get the momentum back.”

Star of the game: Joe Thomas, Geneseo, 3 hits, 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 runs

Key performers: Adam Sentzel, Geneseo, 2 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Zach Riffe, Geneseo, 2 hits, 3 RBIs, 1 run; Jon Solberg, Geneseo 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Jake Tavitas, Dixon, RBI 2B; Cal Jarrett, Dixon, 2 hits, RBI

Up next: Newman at Dixon, doubleheader, 1 p.m. Saturday

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