Season ends for MMCRU baseball as lead slips away in last inning

Wednesday, July 14, 2021
(Sentinel Photo By Joshua Krause) Above, MMCRU’s Cade Pepper pitches in Monday’s district contest. He struck out seven in his final game in a Royals uniform.

LE MARS — In a true roller coaster of a game for fans of both teams, MMCRU failed to hold onto a 4-3 lead over Trinity Christian in the seventh inning of the first game of Monday’s Class 1A district first round doubleheader at Riverview Complex, eventually losing 5-4.

In the top of the seventh, MMCRU made a pitching change. Cade Pepper had accrued seven strikeouts and seemed to be finding his groove as the contest went on. However, senior Caden Sand was brought in to close the game for the Royals. After striking out the first batter he faced and marking a second out when Preston Astidias fielded a grounder at shortstop, the wheels slowly began to come off the tracks as MMCRU was just one out away from advancing; a double to deep left-center field was followed by a walk from Sand, who started that at-bat in the lead with an 0-2 count. Another pop fly to right field was not tracked down, and both Trinity Christian runners scored, reclaiming a 5-4 lead. KC Nicks was then brought in from right field to relieve Sand, and a groundout to Astidias stopped the bleeding for the Royals, despite losing grasp of their lead they worked so hard to build.

MMCRU failed to score in the bottom of the seventh as their season came to a close. Mitchell Schnepf hit a pop fly that was caught in center field. This was followed by a strikeout from Carson Pick and a fly out to left-center field from Sand.

After giving up two runs in the top of the first inning and another in the third, the Royals struggled to reach their own scoring column until the fourth inning.

Led off by a walk for freshman Schnepf, who stole second base shortly after, a sacrifice bunt from junior Carson Pick moved Schnepf to third base. Another walk for junior Colin Pick placed runners on first and third. A skipping grounder put in play by Preston Astidias saw the junior safe at first base, and Schnepf scored on a poor throw to home plate, shrinking the Royals deficit to 3-1 through four innings of play.

After a ground out and a pop fly, both fielded by junior third baseman Eban Hicks, and a strikeout from Pepper, the Royals were chomping at the bit for another opportunity to put runs on the board.

The bottom of the fifth was led off by a double from sophomore KC Nicks and another walk for Schnepf. Carson Pick then hit a two-RBI triple to deep right field to tie the game 3-3, prompting an appropriate roar from MMCRU fans in the crowd as the Royals showed their season wouldn’t be ending without a fight.

In the top of the sixth inning, a pair of strikeouts from Pepper and a grounder fielded by Astidias at shortstop made it feel as though MMCRU had seized all momentum for the first time in the game as they headed into the bottom of the sixth.

A walk for Colin Pick and a subsequent balk called on Trinity Christian and a sacrifice bunt from Astidias moved Pick into scoring position at third base, giving the Royals a shot at their first lead of the night. With two outs, Nicks’ base hit drove Pick home to take a 4-3 lead.

MMCRU had won both regular season meetings by scores of 7-1 and 11-5, but could not finish off the third meeting with a win as they end their season with a record of 11-11. The Royals had three seniors on their roster with Pepper, Sand and Braeden Kamphoff.

Trinity Christian (5-14) advanced to play Gehlen Catholic on Tuesday night.

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