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AMATEUR BASEBALL: Battling it out

Milroy Irish edge Jackson in series opener, 5-4

Photo by Sam Thiel Milroy’s Ben Heichel dives across home plate to score a run in the first inning of their game against Jackson on Wednesday. The Irish defeated the Bulls 5-4 to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three series.

MILROY — As teams move forward in each round of the postseason, the more challenging things will get. The second-round series of the Region 13C playoffs showed that in the opener between the Milroy Irish and the Jackson Bulls.

Deadlocked in a back-and-forth affair, the two teams were quickly forced to show their ability to fight and battle back, with the game going down to the bitter end. When the dust settled, it was the Irish who emerged victorious with a tight 5-4 win on Wednesday at Irish Yard.

Milroy manager Bob Dolan credited Jackson’s starter for throwing them off-balance when he needed to and felt his starter Beau Priegnitz did a great job of settling into his zone after a tough first inning.

“It was an awesome game, everybody played well. I thought their pitcher threw really well, he really isolated our left-handers and did an awesome job so hats off to their pitcher,” coach Dolan said. “Beau came back after an awful first inning and threw eight innings so that was huge for us.”

Jackson jumped out to a quick start, using a pair of walks and a single to load the bases with no outs before back-to-back sacrifice flies brought in two runs to give the Bulls a 2-0 lead. Milroy immediately responded, though, as Dominic Dolan reached on an error and Ben Heichel drew a walk before Derek Riley smacked a single that plated both baserunners to even things up at 2-2 after one.

After a scoreless second, things got a little heated in the top half of the third. The Bulls would get a one-out double followed by a groundout to put them to their final out of the frame. Jackson then got a single into the outfield and the throw home would beat the Bulls runner for the final out, but the play at the plate would cause some tension, forcing both benches to empty. Nobody was ejected, but warnings were administered to both teams.

The Irish then went to the plate in the bottom of the inning and quickly got some momentum with a leadoff double by Dominic Dolan and a single by Tyler Peterson. After a strikeout, Heichel would bring in a run on a fielder’s choice to give Milroy the lead at 3-2.

Neither side found scoring over the next couple of frames, but Jackson got back on the board in the top of the sixth, using an error before an RBI triple tied things up at 3-3, but the Irish and Priegnitz were able to get out of the jam with a groundout. The Irish answered right back with a triple of their own by Riley to lead off their at-bat before a sacrifice fly by Anthony Dolan put Milroy back in front at 4-3.

That lead didn’t last long for Milroy, with Jackson getting a walk and a sacrifice bunt to start the seventh before a single and a sacrifice fly helped tie things up at four runs apiece. Once again, the Irish came right back with the timely response, this time getting a single by Dominic Dolan before Peterson drew a walk. Dominic would try to steal third with Heichel at the plate, and the throw would sail past the third baseman, scoring Dolan in the process to give Milroy a 5-4 lead and ultimately the victory.

Coach Dolan added he was pleased with the way his team continued to fight all game and left it all out on the line.

“We kept the intensity up. It’s playoff time, it’s a fun time and Jackson’s a great team,” coach Dolan said. “We got a little feisty early in the game which was fun to see; it’s playoff time, so every game means everything.”

Riley led the way for Milroy with a pair of hits and two RBI while Dominic Dolan added two hits and Anthony Dolan and Peterson each had a hit.

Priegnitz earned the victory on the mound, going eight innings while allowing four runs on four hits and struck out four. Peterson came on for the save, tossing a scoreless ninth while allowing one hit, getting the final out with a long flyout that was caught at the wall.

Up next

The Irish take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series and will hit the road for game two on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Jackson. Coach Dolan said they just need to keep on fighting because they know that Jackson will do the same.

“We’ve got to keep fighting,” coach Dolan said. “Jackson’s a fighting team and we’ve got to go back to them; we’ve got Cody Mather going on Friday, who is one of our better pitchers and keep the pedal to the ground.”

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