The Class 1A No. 3-ranked Gehlen Catholic baseball team narrowly avoided its first loss of the season Wednesday by scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn 5-4. Two runs wouldn't have helped much Thursday.
Unity Christian pounded Jays' starter Craig Schlesser for 12 hits en route to a 13-6 upset victory in War Eagle Conference play at Orange City.
"It wasn't anything Craig did," said Gehlen coach Marty Kurth, defending his starter. "Unity just came out and hit everything he pitched at them. But I have to give Craig credit, because he kind of saved the team with the CYO coming up."
Gehlen got off to a good start with two runs in the top of the first inning, only to have Unity answer back with five runs in their half of the frame. From there the Jays attempted to play catch-up, trimming Unity's lead to 5-3 with a run in the second. The Knights were relentless, however, adding three in the third, two in the fourth and three in the fifth to put the game out of reach.
Schlesser went the distance to take the loss, allowing eight earned runs on 14 hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
The Jays did their best to back Schlesser at the plate with 12 hits on the night, but could not get the big ones they needed, said Kurth.
"We hit the ball okay with 12 hits," said Kurth. "But we still didn't get a couple of two-out hits when we needed to. That's something we still have to keep improving on."
Schlesser helped himself with a pair of hits - including a double - and an RBI, while Taylor Smith was 2 for 4. Eric Rohe was also 2 for 3 with an RBI and Mitch Kurth was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
Gehlen is now 1-1 in the War Eagle with rival Remsen St. Mary's in town Monday night for a battle between state-ranked teams. The seventh-ranked Hawks are battling illness and injury and sit at 0-2 in the WEC coming into the game. Kurth said that it's pretty evident that the conference race is going to be highly competitive this season.
"There's not an easy night anywhere in the War Eagle this year," said Kurth. "It's going to be interesting to see how it pans out."
But first the Jays are set to compete in the CYO tournament Saturday in Carroll. Gehlen (4-1) has drawn Storm Lake St. Mary's in the opening round at 4 p.m.
"The CYO is always enjoyable," said Kurth. "It's a great tradition. We always look forward to playing on Carroll's field."