By ROGER THOMAS
---- — EDDYVILLE — The Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Rockets still need some help, but they gave themselves a chance to win or tie for the South Central Conference baseball championship by splitting with Centerville Wednesday night in Eddyville. Kolton Gonnerman’s three-hit shutout gave the Big Reds a 6-0 win in the opener, then Trevor Swartz threw a three-hitter to help the Rockets take the nightcap 11-1.
The Rockets will need Albia to knock off Chariton once for a tie or twice for the outright championship.
Gonnerman allowed a single to Christian Bambrook in the Rocket first and didn’t allow another hit until the fourth. The game was scoreless through two but the Big Reds took a 2-0 lead in the third. Gonnerman and Levi Sebolt led off with back-to-back singles.
The two baserunners then pulled off a successful double steal. The Rockets committed two throwing errors on the play and both runners scored.
“We really haven’t had too many times where we have defensive breakdowns like that,” said EBF coach Rod Ashman. “It did give them some early momentum though.”
The game remained 2-0 through the fifth, where Centerville executed another of those fundamental plays that affect the outcome of a game. They caught a Rocket runner off first and the successful run down started the 1-2-3 inning. Gonnerman finished off the fifth with two strikeouts.
“We spend a lot of time working on special fundamental situations that we might need,” said Centerville coach Bill Huisman. “For the most part, we have done a good job with sac bunts, the double steal, and the run down play.”
Michael Firkins had his second hit for the Big Reds in the sixth, but Centerville stranded two runners in the inning.
“My hitting is starting to come around,” said Firkins.
Centerville put the game away with a four-run seventh. Hunter Cowan’s second hit led off the inning. Two batters later, Gonnerman hit his second two-run homer in as many nights with a shot to right-center field.
“It was just an outside pitch and I took it the opposite way,” said Gonnerman.
Two walks, one intentional, preceeded Jared Armington’s two-RBI single that closed out the scoring. Gonnerman retired the Rockets in order in the seventh to complete the shutout.
“I threw a lot of curve balls,” said Gonnerman. “I felt really sharp the whole game.”
“Catching Kolton (Gonnerman) is easy because he hits his spots so well,” said Firkins. “We’re usually on the same page.”
“He’s our ace,” added Huisman. “This was a pretty typical game for him.”
Centerville jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first in game two. A two-out walk, another Firkins hit, and Armington’s RBI single accounted for the run.
The Rockets tied it in the bottom of the inning. Christian Bambrook had the first of his three game two hits and he would score on a Big Red error.
Centerville hurt themselves early with their defense. They committed another two errors in the second as EBF went up 5-1. Four of the five runs were unearned. The big hit in the second was Bambrook’s two-RBI double.
Bambrook, who pitched a complete game and relieved in another just the night before, talked about a relaxed night to hit.
“It doesn’t really help me hit when I’m playing in the field, but it’s important that I understand that I have a different role when I’m not pitching,” Bambrook said.
Centerville went to their second pitcher to get out of the second and had to go to their third early in the third as the Rockets added three more runs for an 8-1 lead. Swartz had an RBI single in the inning. Hunter Cowan, the third Big Red pitcher, got his team out of the inning and was solid for three more innings.
“We knew coming in that we were going to get a look at a couple of our younger pitchers,” said Huisman. “I think Hunter (Cowan) did a really good job.”
“We didn’t really pound the ball all over the field and left too many runners on base (11),” added Ashman “I do think we did a good job of taking advantage of things they gave us.”
After struggling in the first, Swartz got stronger as the game wore on. He would only allow one more hit after the first.
Swartz talked about starting game two after a loss.
“It’s important to get a win whenever we can and I felt like I needed to go the complete game after last night,” said Swartz. “The first inning is the toughest because I’m trying to find a comfortable rhythm.”
“It was good to have Trevor (Swartz) throw the whole game,” said Ashman. “I think it is important to stretch our pitchers out during this part of the season. It should help at tournament time.”
Jevin Jensen’s RBI plated a run for the Rockets in the fifth. Swartz’s second hit for an RBI and Bambrook’s third hit for his fourth RBI ended the game with two outs in the home sixth.
Each team has a doubleheader tonight. Centerville (17-14, 11-7) will be at Fort Madison. E-B-F (23-11, 15-5) will travel to Knoxville.
Centerville 6, E-B-F 0
CENT 002 000 4 — 6 9 3
E-B-F 000 000 0 — 0 3 4
Centerville battery - Kolton Gonnerman (W) (7IP, 3H, 8K, 2BB), Michael Firkins catching.
HR - Gonnerman.
Hits - Gonnerman 2-for-4, Levi Sebolt 1-for-3, Firkins 2-for-3, Jared Armington 1-for-4, Trey Reinhart 1-for-3, Hunter Cowan 2-for-3 .
RBI - Gonnerman 2, Armington 2.
Runs - Gonnerman 2, Sebolt 2, Tommy Matley, Cowan.
E-B-F battery - Lewie Winkelman (L) (7IP, 9H, 6R, 4ER, 2K, 3BB), Chance Wursta catching.
Hits – Christian Bambrook 1-for-3, Jevin Jensen 1-for-2, Winkelman 1-for-3 .
E-B-F 11, Centerville 1 (6)
CENT 100 000 — 1 3 4
E-B-F 143 012 — 11 9 2
Centerville battery - Grant Walker (L) (1 2/3IP, 4H, 5R, ER, 2K, 2BB), Michael Firkins (2/3IP, 2H, 3R, 3ER, K, 3BB), Hunter Cowan (3 1/3IP, 2H, 3R, 4K, 4BB) and Wyatt Ewalt (H), Firkins and Brett Kauzlarich catching.
Hits - Firkins 1-for-3, Jared Armington 1-for-3, B. Kauzlarich 1-for-2 .
RBI - Armington.
Runs - Michael Starcevich.
E-B-F battery - Trevor Swartz (W) (6IP, 3H, R, ER, 5K, 2BB), Chance Wursta and Gage DeLaCruz catching.
2B – Christian Bambrook.
Hits - Swartz 2-for-3, Bambrook 3-for-4, Wursta 1-for-2, Jevin Jensen 1-for-4, Cole Maines 1-for-3, Lewie Winkelman 1-for-1 .
RBI - Cory Archer, Swartz 2, Bambrook 4, Wursta, Jensen, Winkelman.
Runs - Archer, Jake Long 2, Bambrook 2, Maines 2, Winkelman 2, Trenton Barnett 2.