By ANDY HEINTZ Courier sports writer @heintz23
---- — KEOTA — The Cardinal baseball team rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat Pekin 7-5 in a game that took eight innings to finish Thursday night in the Class 1A, District 9 bracket.
The Comets managed to weather a four-run fourth inning by the Panthers on their way to picking up a victory.
“There were times where some of the team got down on ourselves,” Cardinal Brennon Elder said, “but the whole team kept each other up most of the game and we were able to fight back.”
“It took the entire team to comeback,” Cardinal coach Tom Hallgren added. “We’ve talked to guys all year long that one thing about learning how to win is when you get in a situation where there’s adversity you’ve got to go back to your basics, you have to go back to fundamentals. They had to hit their way back into the game, and, by god, they found a way to do it.”
The tide began to shift in the Comets’ favor when Elder replaced Conner McElderry on the mound in the middle of the fourth. After three solid innings of work on the hill, McElderry had run into some serious trouble. The Panthers used a blitz of singles by Kolby Allsup, Petie Clubb, Nazereth Rambo and Cole Reighard and a pair of doubles by Cade Millikin and Seth Jensen to put four runs on the board and build a 5-2 lead.
But Elder’s insertion into the game successfully squelched the Panthers offensive momentum. After he helped Cardinal navigate its way out of the tempestuous inning, the Comet’s began to methodically chip away at Pekin’s lead.
In the top of the fifth, Cardinal’s Tyler Albert came through with a single to left field that drove in Cody Streeby and narrowed the gap to 5-3. Then, in the sixth, Streeby, who went 4-5 at the plate, cracked a double to right field that scored Dakota Showman and cut Pekin’s lead to 5-4.
In the top of the seventh, Rambo was elected to close things out on the mound for Pekin, as he replaced starting pitcher Seth Jensen. Things started out swimmingly for the Panther pitcher as he struck out Albert to start the inning. But the next batter Rambo faced would change the whole complexion of the game. Cardinal’s Charlie Rachford slapped a grounder up the middle that Rambo couldn’t field cleanly; a throw to first got was unsuccessful, allowing Rachford to advance to second. Elder followed the play with a line-drive single to centerfield that drove in Rachford and tied the game at 5.
In the top of eighth, Streeby drilled a one-out double to right centerfield. Moments later, McElderry belted a double to right centerfield that gave the Comets a 6-5 lead. Later in the inning, Rachford singled home McElderry to make it 7-5 Cardinal.
Pekin, however, still had some fight left in the bottom half of the inning. After Elder struck out Jensen, Graham Wittrock and Allsup delivered back-to-back singles for the Panthers. Elder, however, managed to bear down and get the next two batters to strike out and ground out to Rachford at second base.
In his four and two-thirds innings of work Elder struck out nine batters and allowed only two hits.
“We’ve talked to Brennon all year about command, command, command,” Hallgren said. “When he locates and hits his spots he’s effective, when he misses his spot he’s vulnerable. He hit enough spots to get it done tonight.”
Pekin coach Curtis Reighard, however, felt his team could have done a little better.
“We needed to to be a little more disciplined in the last three innings, because he was struggling,” Reighard said.
Allsup performed brilliantly for Pekin offensively in defeat, going 3-for-4 at the plate. Despite the loss, coach Reighard found some positive things to build on for the future.
“I think we started peaking at the last part of the season,” Reighard said. “We will build on that for next year.”
The Panthers ended their season with an overall record of 13-12.
Cardinal (17-11) plays North Mahaska at 7 p.m. Saturday in the district finals at Montezuma.
Cardinal 7, Pekin 5
Card 001 111 12 — 7 13 3
Peki 010 400 00 — 5 10 5
Cardinal battery — Conner McElderry (ND) (3 1/3 IP, 10H, 5R, 5ER, 3K, 0BB), Brennon Elder (W, 4-3) (4 2/3 IP, 2H, 6K, 1BB) Cody Streeby catching.
2B — Cole Campbell, Streeby 2, McElderry.
Hits — Dakota Showman 1-for-4, Cody Streeby 4-for-5, McElderry 2-for-5, Cole Campbell 2 -for-3, Tyler Albert 1-for-5, Charlie Rachford 1-for-3, Elder 1-for-4, Quinn Honomichl 1-for-3.
RBI — Brandon Eklofe, Campbell, Albert, Streeby, Elder, McElderry, Rachford.
Runs — Charlie Rachford 2, Campbell, Streeby 2, Showman, McElderry.
Pekin battery — Seth Jensen(ND) (6IP, 9H, 4R, 4ER, 1K, 2BB), Nazereth Rambo (L, 0-2) (2IP, 4H, 3R, 2E, 5K, 2BB) Cole Reighard catching.
2B — Cade Millikin, Jensen.
Hits — Graham Wittrock 1-for-3, Rambo 1 -for-4, Reighard 1-for-3, Cade Millikin 1-for-4, Kolby Allsup 3-for-4, Petie Club 1-for-5, Jensen 2-for-4, Jaydan Nicholson 1-for-5, Jon Irwin 1-for-4.
RBI — Rambo, Jensen 2, Millikin, Clubb.
Runs — Nicholson, Rambo, Reighard, Millikin, Christian Wittrock.