The Community R-6 varsity baseball team might have been quite the underdog coming into Fridays first round Class 1, District 12, matchup against Madison, but not only did it have the home field advantage, starting pitcher Matt Gastler played one of his best games of the season.
Because the senior was in the zone for what would turn out to be the final game of his prep career, the Trojans were able to make it a one-run game in the fourth inning and even tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth. Even though they were playing in Laddonia, it was the Panthers that were listed as the home team on the scoreboard, and when Madison got to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, that's when the momentum truly turned against CR-6.
Five runs later and the Trojans were down 7-2, and after several more exchanges during the final two innings Madison eventually came out ahead 8-4.
"Gastler has been pitching unbelievable. He's been fighting. I think there might have been some inconsistency last year with defense and that's what we tried to work on so he knew he could be confident because the defense was behind him," said coach Dave Matthews. "Gastler has done a wonderful job going deep into several games. There have been times he's thrown 105, 106 pitches and he just battles. All of his games have been close."
CR-6's initial run came when Braedon Swaim led off the top of the third by walking. Two strikeouts after that Cordell Hollensteiner singled to right field and Levi Rafferty got hit by a pitch to load the bases, allowing Evan Hartsock to bring Swaim home by drawing a walk.
"We failed to get runs across the plate. That's the mark of a young team. That's been haunting us all year," Matthews said. "We've been playing young kids all year and we've been trying to get them reps so that they understand game situations. The only way to really do that, though, is to play them in the games. We just couldn't get the runs across when we had the bases loaded. We were talking about how every game this year there've been times we've had two or threee men on base and we couldn't score."
The Trojans then tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth starting with a walk to Hunter Houghton and a double by Hollensteiner that put runners on second and third. When Hartsock followed all of that with a one-out deep fly ball to left field, Houghton was able to tag up and the ascore was deadlocked.
"Hartsock played well, at times. It seems like when his bat is hot, his glove is hot," said Matthews. "He only made two errors all year."
Amidst Madison's fifth inning offensive run, CR-6 pulled Gastler from the mound for Houghton. The squad also busted out a quick run in the top of the sixth when Klayton Bosworth drew a leadoff walk and Justin Duenke drove him home with a double in the very next at-bat to close the gap 7-3.
"With our kids experience, once they have another year of conditioning and weight training, we'll go from there," Matthews said. "I'm a fan of small ball because we have a big park. Bunting, stealing. We play who we play. No excuses."