By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — ALBIA – It was a simple single down the first-base line. Yet it likely sent cheers across two counties on Thursday.
Albia junior Drew Schofield sent a pitch from Christian Bambrook just out of the reach of Rocket first baseman Levi Johnston and just inside the line for a game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh inning of the Blue Demons opening game with EBF at the Albia Summer Sports Complex. The hit brought home Austin Luse with his second run of the opening game in the critical South Central Conference doubleheader, giving the Blue Demons a 3-2 victory over the first-place team in the conference.
At least that’s where EBF started the day — atop the SCC by a game over Chariton with a 12-2 record. The loss in the opening game to Albia came while the Chargers were in the middle of sweeping Centerville in a battle of conference title hopefuls.
Having started two hours earlier, No. 8 (3A) Chariton had already put up an 18-4 victory over the Big Reds before game one in Albia had even started. Schofield’s game-winning hit officially lifted the eighth-ranked Chargers (24-2, 12-2) into first place in the SCC over EBF, which the Chargers cemented by holding off a late Centerville (15-11, 9-5) rally to win the nightcap over the Big Reds 7-6.
EBF (19-9, 12-4) hoped to stay within one game in the loss column of the Chargers and move within percentage points of Chariton atop the SCC with a split against the Blue Demons. After leading game two 1-0 through three innings, however, Albia (16-13, 10-8) scored four times in the fourth inning off Rocket game two starter Trevor Swartz to grab a 4-1 lead over EBF Thursday night as the Courier went to press.
Bryce Leshen, who had the go-ahead two-RBI hit in the fourth inning of game two, put Albia ahead for the first time in game one after EBF led 1-0 on a third inning RBI groundout by Christian Bambrook. Leshen drove home older brother Brett and Austin Luse with a two-out, two-run single off Bambrook to put Albia up 2-1.
EBF answered back off relief pitcher Victor Sanders, scoring a game-tying run in the sixth as Lewie Winkleman brought home pinch runner Jackson Voyles with an RBI double to left. Albia kept the game tied moments later, however, gunning out Gage DeLaCruz on a groundball hit to short.
Luse and Griffin Osing connected on back-to-back singles with one out in the seventh off Bambrook before the EBF senior ace came back to record his eighth strikeout on the younger Leshen for the second out. The next pitch he threw, however, became a first pitch-swinging RBI single that pushed Albia into a game-one win and pushed EBF out of first place in the SCC. The Blue Demons successfully carried that momentum into game two, as they defeated the Rockets 5-1.
After traveling to the Grinnell “Tiger” Tournament on Saturday, EBF is slated for a first-place showdown at No. 8 (3A) Chariton on Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. The Chargers host a make-up doubleheader with Clarke on Monday before hosting the Rockets.
Albia is off until a doubleheader at Keokuk next Wednesday. Centerville will eagerly await word Tuesday on the EBF-Chariton doubleheader as they take the field later in the day at Bloomfield against former SCC kingpin Davis County.
For a complete recap of this SCC doubleheader, see tomorrow’s edition of the Courier.
Albia 3, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 2
EBF 001 001 0 — 2 8 1
Albia 000 020 1 — 3 13 0
EBF battery — Christian Bambrook (L, 5-3) (6 2/3IP, 13H, 3R, 3ER, 8K, BB), Chance Wursta catching.
2B — Lewie Winkleman.
Hits — Jevin Jensen 2-3, Bambrook 1-3, Cole Maines 1-3, Winkleman 1-3, Wursta 1-3, Cory Archer 1-4, Jeren Glosser 1-4.
RBI — Bambrook, Winkleman.
Runs — Glosser, Jackson Voyles.
Albia battery — Ethan Gray (5IP, 5H, R, ER, 4K) and Victor Sanders (W, 4-2) (2IP, 3H, R, ER), Gabe Gravert catching.
2B — Austin O’Leary.
Hits — Brett Leshen 3-4, Austin Luse 3-4, Gray 2-4, Drew Schofield 2-4, O’Leary 1-3, Griffin Osing 1-3, Bryce Leshen 1-4.
RBI — Bry. Leshen 2, Schofield.
Runs — Luse 2, Bre. Leshen.