By ROGER THOMAS
---- — CHARITON — The Chariton Chargers baseball team boasts a 4-3 record with all four wins coming at home. And, astoundingly, all four wins have come in walk-off fashion.
The last two walk-off wins came in a doubleheader sweep of ninth-ranked (2A) Albia Friday afternoon. The Chargers won game one 2-1 in nine innings, squeaking out the victory after Nate Hoeger was beaned by a pitch with the bases loaded. Relief pitcher, Brendan Woods, singled in the winning run with one out in the bottom of the eighth to give the Chargers the 9-8 win in game two.
Game one was a classic pitchers' duel. Albia’s Victor Sanders and Chariton’s Charlie Palmer each threw eight innings and only gave up one run. Their performances might be overlooked because of the way the game ended, but that would be a crime.
“Vic did a great job and was part of a phenomenal game,” said Albia coach Boyd Brittain.
Sanders only surrendered five hits and had eight strikeouts. Palmer had nearly the same good pitching line for Chariton. He scattered nine hits and gave up only one unearned run while striking out five.
“I’m throwing the ball harder than last year and I don’t think I lost too much velocity late. I think my curve ball was pretty good, especially early,” said Palmer. “I maybe could have finished, but my arm would have been really tired for the next game.”
As good as the game was, there were a number of plays that you don't witness in a typical game. There were two runners picked off at first, an illegal slide call and the Chargers had two runs cross the plate that were wiped out.
Albia took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth. The lefty Palmer, who had already picked two Blue Demons off first, gave up an unearned run in the top of the inning. Jacob Lenger’s single to left scored the run. Sanders’ first five innings were even more impressive. He allowed only Austin Ritenour’s double in the second, providing the Chargers with their first chance to score.
After his lead-off hit, Ritenour reached third on a wild pitch. He would have scored, but the speed of Albia’s Zach Hugen took away a run-scoring hit. Sprinting to center field, Hugen’s headlong dive robbed Aaron Cain of a hit. Ritenour tagged at third and crossed the plate, but the umpire ruled he'd left too early.
Sanders breezed through the third, fourth, and fifth. Hugen's speed let him pick up his second infield hit, but he was stranded in the Blue Demon sixth. Chariton tied it in the home sixth. After a one-out walk, Kobey Riechmann had a bunt single and, two batters later, Brett Braida singled in the tying run.
Albia wasted Sanders’ double in the seventh. Sanders went on to retire the Chargers in order to send the game to extra innings.
Albia left the bases loaded in the eighth: O’Leary’s second hit of the game, a walk to Bryce Leshen, and Brett Leshen’s second hit loaded the bases with nobody out.
Chariton had a chance to win it in the eighth. John Lazear had a two-out hit. Braida followed with a walk and Ritenour’s second hit appeared to drive in the winning run. However, the umpire ruled that the Charger runner failed to touch home plate and the game moved to the ninth.
“Our guys did a good job of overcoming a couple of tough calls,” said Chariton coach Jake Schroeder.
Albia failed to score in the ninth. That set up the exciting, unusual, walk-off finish as Chariton left fielder Nate Hoeger was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to end it.
“I was looking for a pitch to hit, but coach said I needed to find any way to get on,” said Hoeger. “It’s my first walk off RBI of any kind.”
Albia jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in their first at-bat of the second game. The Blue Demons took a commanding lead in the second by scoring six runs on seven hits. O’Leary and Bryce Leshen each had RBI base hits, but the big blow was a two-run double by Hugen.
Chariton answered with a single run in the home second. Ethan Curnette singled to drive in Spencer Sherrick, who had singled earlier. Albia went up 8-1 in the top of the third as O’Leary scored on Griffin Osing’s sacrifice fly.
Albia had nine first-game hits, but left nine runners on base. In the first three innings of game two, the Blue Demons pounded out eight of their 10 hits, but had left seven runners stranded.
“That really hurt,” said Brittain. “We need to make that a lot better.”
Schofield faced only the minimum number of hitters over the next four innings. He and the Blue Demons took an 8-1 lead to the seventh. Albia was retired in order by Woods in the seventh to set the stage for the Charger comeback.
Ritenour led off the Charger seventh with a single. Three walks and an Albia error led to three Chariton runs and cut the lead down to 8-4.
After a visit by the coach to the mound, a tiring Schofield allowed a two-run single by John Lazear and Ritenour’s second hit of the frame. The two-run double by Ritenour tied the game at 8-8.
“I’m seeing the ball really well right now and I was looking for him to come in with a strike on the first pitch,” said Ritenour. “It was on the outer part of the plate, so I took it to right center.”
“We’ve been struggling to score runs, so the number of runs we scored in the comeback was really good,” added Schroeder.
Brett Leshen and Hugen had two-out hits for Albia in the eighth, but no one was able to drive them home. Spencer Sherrick led off the Chariton eighth with a walk and was sacrificed to second before scoring on Woods’ single to left for the Chargers’ second-straight walk-off win.
Woods, who in one swing of the bat got a walk-off hit, a win for his team and a win for himself on the mound, talked about his role at the end of the game.
“I didn’t expect to keep Albia from scoring any runs for three innings,” Woods said. “The hit was really big for my team.”
“I’m proud of the unity of this team,” said Schroeder. “Getting these two wins, in this fashion, should be a big confidence booster for us.”
After being rained out of the Colfax-Mingo Tournament on Saturday, No. 9 (2A) Albia (3-3, 0-2) will try to make up the remainder of an SCC doubleheader at home with Centerville with action resuming in the fifth inning of game one. Chariton (4-3, 2-0) took on Davis County Monday in Bloomfield before it faced Knoxville today at noon in Des Moines, returning to Principal Park for the first time since playing in the Class 3A State Tournament last summer.
Chariton 2, No. 9 (2A) Albia 1 (9)
Albia 000 010 000 – 1 9 2
Char. 000 001 001 – 2 5 4
Albia battery – Sanders (8IP, 5H, 1R, 1ER, 8K, 3BB) and Brett Leshen (LP) (1/3IP, 0H, 1R, 1ER, 0K, 2BB), Blake Bayer catching.
2B – Sanders.
Hits – O’Leary 2-for-5, Brett Leshen 2-for-4, Hugen 2-for-4, Schofield 1-for-4, Sanders 1-for-4, Lenger 1-for-4.
RBI – Lenger.
Runs – Hunter Weldon.
Chariton battery – Palmer (8IP, 9H, 1R, 0ER, 5K, 1BB), and Aaron Cain (WP) (1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0K, 0BB), Ethan Payton catching.
2B – Ritenour.
Hits – Kobey Riechmann 1-for-4, John Lazear 1-for-4, Braida 1-for-3, Ritenour 2-for-3.
RBI – Braida, Nate Hoeger.
Runs – Cain, Hoeger.
Chariton 9, No. 9 (2A) Albia 8 (8)
Albia 161 000 00 – 8 10 1
Char. 010 000 71 – 9 8 3
Albia battery – Schofield (7IP, 7H, 8R, 4ER, 4K, 4BB) and Lenger (LP) (1/3IP, 1H, 1R, 1ER, 0K, 1BB), Daniel Bunnell catching.
2B – Hugen.
Hits – O’Leary 1-for-4, Bryce Leshen 2-for-5, Brett Leshen 2-for-4, Hugen 2-for-5, Schofield 1-for-5, Caleb Gray 2-for-4.
RBI – O’Leary, Bryce Leshen, Hugen 2, Griffin Osing, Schofield.
Runs – O’Leary 3, Bryce Leshen, Brett Leshen, Hugen, Gray, Weldon.
Chariton battery – Braida (1 2/3IP, 7H, 7R, 6ER, 0K, 2BB), Ethan Curnutte (3 1/3IP, 1H, 1R, 0ER, 3K, 1BB) and Woods (WP) (3IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 1K, 0BB), Payton catching.
2B – Ritenour.
Hits – Lazear 1-for-4, Braida 1-for-4, Ritenour 3-for-4, Spencer Sherrick 1-for-2, Curnette 1-for-2, Woods 1-for-1.
RBI – Lazear 2, Ritenour 2, Curnette 2, Woods, Hoeger.
Runs – Lazear, Braida, Ritenour, Palmer, Sherrick 2, Carter Miller, Cain, Hoeger.