SYCAMORE - A line drive went right into the glove of center fielder Derrick Sowers. A deep fly ball was tracked down by right fielder Logan Hartsel. A hard ground ball was smothered by shortstop Austin Shock.
Lakota had plenty of chances in Friday's Midland Athletic League opener against Mohawk, but just about every one ended in the glove of a Warrior fielder.
On the other side of things, Raider hurler Nick Watts gave Mohawk very few chances. But the ones the Warriors did get, they took advantage of.
With the game tied at 2 in the bottom of the sixth, two walks set the stage and Hartsel hit a grounder to short. The throw got past the first baseman and Devon Fredritz scampered home, breaking the tie and propelling Mohawk to a 3-2 victory.
"We played really good at the beginning and the end. But kinda got slow in the middle," Fredritz said. "We pulled through with the win though. That's always good."
For Lakota coach Terry James, Friday was just the latest in a string of heartbreakers as his team is still searching for its first win.
"We had three of those out of five games this year," he said. "We're killing the ball. We're crushing the ball. We just can't find the holes. It will come around.
"That's been the story of the season. We're hitting the ball hard. We're just hitting it right at people. We had guys on base, one or two things go different and we're 4-1. We'll get there."
Watts went the distance for Lakota, allowing two hits and striking out nine. But, it took a while for the junior fireballer to settle in.
In the first inning, Grant Gucker laced a two-out double to left center and Fredritz followed up with an RBI single for the game's first run. Fredritz would come home after three-straight walks to make it 2-0 Warriors.
"That's the most important thing," Fredritz said when asked the importance of getting to Watts early. "Probably out of everyone we've seen so far this year, he's the best. It was good to get one off him."
Watts shook off the early struggles though, not allowing a hit the rest of the afternoon.
"Nick Watts is as good of a pitcher as you'll see in high school as a junior," James said. "He didn't have a feel for the mound right off the bat, but when he came around, that's all it was. A late error and it cost us the ballgame again."
Mohawk could've broke the game open in the first, but Lakota shortstop Jack Raymond came up with a hard hit ball by Hartsel to end the inning.
"Of course you want to try to get as many as you can in that situation, but we made good contact and they made a play. That's the nature of the game," said Mohawk coach Eric Hoover. "But I was confident our pitching would hold up. They did a great job of keeping the game in our control."
Mohawk starter Jacob Jeffrey held Lakota in check for most of the afternoon. Jeffrey went five innings scattering seven hits, allowing two runs, one earned.
"Jacob had another great start for us, really had command of his pitches," Hoover said. "He was in control. Started mixing in his curveball a lot more, later, and kept them off-balance. I was questioning whether to take him out maybe in about the 4th inning, and he told me he was alright and went out, starting mixing in some curveballs and was able to keep the off balance, because they were staring to get on him a bit, get control back of the game."
Both Lakota's runs came in the fourth inning. Jacob Aaron led off the inning with a single, one of three hits on the day for him, and Raymond followed up with a double. Up next, Jacob Stewart hit a ball to short that resulted in an error and both runners coming home.
But Jeffrey retired the next three batters to end the threat.
The same duo of Aaron and Raymond started another Raider rally in the sixth, each with base hits. But relief pitcher Austin Harper came in and stopped the threat. Harper got Stewart to bunt back to him, but walked Watts next. However, with the bases loaded, Harper got back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
Harper came back in the seventh and closed the door on the Raiders.
"He's been coming in in relief for us here a few times now," Hoover said of Harper. "He's a baseball player. He's tough mentally out there, has good control. I don't have to worry too much about him losing control and giving them freebies. He's got good movement on the ball. I felt pretty confident and he did a good job coming in and shutting them down in a tough situation."