Baseball: Douglas falls to Galena in first round
It began with a surprise, contained plenty of drama and ended with controversy, but the Douglas baseball team’s first-round matchup with Galena in the first round of the Northern 4A Regional Tournament Tuesday afternoon was everything that one would expect from a playoff game.
In the end, Galena snuck away with a 5-4 win on its home field, stranding Douglas’ potential tying run on third base on what can best be described as an unusual call.
Douglas had put runners on first and third after Kameron Van Winkle was hit by a pitch with one out and Matt Thomas poked a single into the outfield.
Cody Lommori stepped to the plate with a chance to tie or give Douglas the lead, but bounced the ball to the left side of the infield near third base setting up a potential double play ball.
Thomas was called out at second on the initial throw as he slid in with the fielder in front of the bag.
Lommori beat the subsequent throw to first, which bounced first on the ground, but Thomas was called for runner interference on the play leaving Lommori technically out and promptly ending the game.
“That’s one of those things, we aren’t really sure what happened,” Douglas coach Bruce Jacobsen said. “But we aren’t going to blame a game on a single play. It was just a tough way to end it.”
It was an abrupt end to a back-and-forth battle that saw Douglas go with the right-handed Thomas on the mound instead of Kameron Van Winkle.
Both Thomas and Van Winkle have posted similar number of the year with Van Winkle holding the spot as the theoretical No. 1 starter, but Thomas had not faced Galena yet this year.
“We had Kameron go late last week and wanted to give him and extra day of rest,” Jacobsen said. “Matt gave us a different look to throw at Galena and when you really get right down to it, there hasn’t been much separation between those guys this year.”
Thomas responded with a career day in all aspects of the game.
He went the distance on the mound, striking out seven and walking only one while scattering seven hits and helped his own effort with a pair of solo home runs and a 3-for-3 clip at the plate.
“Matt was just tremendous today,” Jacobsen said. “He was great all day in every respect and cemented his place in Douglas baseball lore.
“The kids battled behind him too and gave us a chance to win. We just came up short today.”
Complicating things was Galena’s ace lefty Jace Puckett, who struck out a whopping 13 Tigers while walking four.
“Puckett is the best guy in the league,” Jacobsen said. “He has been the last two years. But we hung in there with him. He beat us 4-3 earlier this year and beat us 5-4 today. To do that against the best pitcher in the league is tough to do.”
Puckett started out on fire, striking out the side to open the game.
Thomas surrendered a leadoff single to Galena’s Jorge Medina in the bottom half of the first, but worked himself to two outs with the one runner on.
Galena’s Jeremy Rosenthal, though, hammered an 0-2 pitch deep over the fence in right field to give the Grizzlies the early 2-0 lead.
After inducing a ground ball to short to get out of the inning, Thomas led off the second at the plate by slugging the fourth pitch he saw over the center field fence.
Douglas built from there, tying the game in the third after Shane Fencl hit a two-out single and came around to score on a double from Leo Trebotich.
Thomas homered to right to open the fourth, giving Douglas its first lead of the game at 3-2.
The Tigers crossed another run in the top of the fifth when Trebotich and Van Winkle each walked, Thomas moved Trebotich to third on a fielder’s choice and Cody Lommori hit a sacrifice fly to right, allowing Trebotich to score.
Trebotich made a nice slide on the play to get under the sharp throw from right field and give Douglas the 4-2 lead.
Galena rallied in the bottom half, however, putting runners on first and second with one out.
Daniel Ferguson hit a run-scoring single and a subsequent walk loaded the bases. Zack Parkinson reached on an error, allowing the tying run to score and Dustin Granada laid down a suicide squeeze bunt on the following pitch to bring what would prove to be the winning run in.
The two teams went scoreless over the next inning, setting up the dramatic finish.
“Galena is a tough team but we left it all on the field today and came up short,” Jacobsen said. “We just have to regroup and focus on the fact that we have a lot of baseball left to play.”