ELDON — One bad inning may have ultimately cost the Cardinal baseball team a conference road win on Monday, but it didn't stop the Comets from continuing to fight.
The continuing goal of being mentally tough helped the Comets bounce back quickly on Tuesday back home for a Southeast Iowa Superconference south division contest with West Burlington. Cardinal shook off an opening triple, which led to an opening run for the Falcons, and regained the lead quickly on the way to a 7-2 win over the Falcons.
"I know that we're going to take some knocks here and there, but the one thing I know that I'm going to get from these guys is that they're going to compete on every pitch," Cardinal head baseball coach Rick Scott said. "My job, as a coach, is to make sure these guys continue to work at being the best baseball players they can be."
The Comets dropped a 9-4 decision on the road at Van Buren on Monday, allowing the Warriors to jump on top early scoring six runs on six hits in the second inning. The final five innings, however, saw Cardinal outscore Van Buren 4-2 refusing to quit despite such an early deficit.
"The one thing I think this team has is mental toughness," Scott said. "We get after it pretty hard during practice. The guys know what I expect. They know I'm going to push them. There's not a better feeling to know that you can push these guys and they're going to respond. That really makes you feel good as a coach."
Cardinal had to respond to early adversity again on Tuesday as Tyler Dameron led off the game with a drive to right that got past an attempt by Dawson Lewis at a diving catch. The result was a triple for the Falcon center fielder off freshman Landon Becker, who making just his second pitching start of the season.
"We talk all the time that we want our players to be the gold glove winners," Scott said. "Dawson dove trying to make that play. If he continues to move like that, he is going to make that play and he'll be able to keep a guy from being able to run around the bases."
Dameron eventually scored on an RBI groundout by Austin Miller, giving the Falcons (5-11, 2-6 SEI south) a 1-0 lead. The lead-off triple would be one of just two hits allowed by Becker, who allowed just four more base runners over the next 3 2/3 innings on the way to earning his second varsity pitching win of the season.
"You never want a runner to get around and score, but giving up one is better than giving up two or three runs," Becker said. "I could have just given up, but I've been playing this game for a little while. I like to pitch. I don't get to do it as much, so it's pretty fun when I get the ball on the mound."
Cardinal didn't leave the Falcon lead on the board for long. Blaine Bryant, Colby Aschenbrenner and Cameron Honomichl all reached with one out and scored in the opening inning. Braden Ridgway's game-tying RBI single was followed by bases-loaded walks drawn by freshmen teammates Griffin Greiner and Maddux Jones to put Cardinal on top for good.
"I really expect a lot out of our freshmen. They've been playing baseball for a long time," Scott said. "These kids are just coming along. The great thing about these guys is I know they're only going to get bettter."
Ridgway and Honomichl each had three hits in the game to lead the Comets, both adding RBI hits in the fourth as Cardinal opened a 7-1 lead. The game also featured a special honorary captain in Ron Howard, a former Cardinal baseball player and head coach who has helped in developing talented baseball players in Wapello County for the past 32 years coaching the game at various levels from Little League to college.
"I wanted to do an honorary captain last year and it just didn't work out, but the people that have been our honorary captains this year have put in a lot of time and effort to help young men become better baseball players and better people," Scott said. "I just wanted to give those people recognition. I wish everyone could come into our activities center and listen to these guys talk. Every one of them have a story to tell.
"For our players, to listen to some of those stories, it's just unbelievable. I think the players are taking it to heart and really know what they're talking about. It's pretty awesome, despite the age difference, that we can all communicate well together through the sport of baseball."
Cardinal (9-5, 5-4 SEI south) steps out of conference tonight for a contest at Moravia.