Freeport baseball rallies past Knoch for Section 1-4A victory
Freeport first baseman Matt Charlton used the word “resilient” multiple times to describe his team following a five-run outburst in the seventh inning that led to a 5-3 comeback victory over Knoch in a battle of the top two teams in the Section 1-4A standings Wednesday at Kelly Automotive Park.
Given the way the Yellowjackets rallied after six quiet innings at the plate, Charlton’s description was an apt one.
Freeport mustered only two hits in the first six innings off Knoch starter Jack Bartek, but when the Knights opened the door with a couple of errors in the seventh, Freeport took advantage with Charlton providing the dagger.
With runners on second and third, Charlton ripped a two-out two-run single to right field off of reliever Andy Pipes that scored Aidan Skradski and Sean Furlong to cap the five-run seventh for the No. 3-ranked Yellowjackets.
“He gave me an inside fastball and that’s the pitch I look for, especially when I’m ahead in counts,” Charlton said. “I just took advantage of it.”
With an open base, Knoch coach Sean O’Donnell contemplated walking Charlton, but decided against it, because Alex Ehalt was on deck and he had already doubled.
“Ehalt is a good hitter and I didn’t want to put (Pipes) in a situation where he had to throw strikes or risk walking the (go-ahead) run in,” O’Donnell said. “We kind of went based on how Andy was throwing at that point.”
Freeport (6-0, 6-0) and Knoch (6-1, 5-1) entered the day tied atop the standings. For six innings Knoch, which is second in the Tribune-Review rankings, executed about as well as possible.
In the seventh however, things unraveled quickly.
Freeport pinch-hitter Griffin Cohen reached on an infield single. Ben Beale followed with a single. Bartek got a comebacker from Gavin Skradski for a possible double play on the next at-bat, but his throw to second base was offline, which loaded the bases. Aidan Skradski followed with a two-run single and Bartek was replaced by Pipes. Furlong tied the game with a single up the middle, and three batters later was Charlton’s clutch hit.
“We never give up,” Charlton said. “I knew we could put the ball in play. Griffin (Cohen) getting on base to start that inning and then Ben (Beale) finding his swing gave us a huge boost. We never back down from a fight. We just needed to get something to get us started. Then, we got it done.”
Furlong worked a 1-2-3 seventh to finish off a complete-game win.
“That’s why you play seven innings,” O’Donnell said. “We won the six-inning ballgame today, but we didn’t win the seven-inning ball game. It’s a tough loss, but it is one loss. We have a lot of section games left, so we can’t let this affect us the rest of the week.”
Furlong allowed eight hits, struck out five and allowed one walk. He ran into trouble in the fifth when Ethan Sloane singled, stole second and moved to third on an errant throw and came into score on an Isaac Love sac fly to right to make it 1-0. Jake Herrit tripled in two more runs later in the inning.
Knoch threatened in the sixth with runners on second and third, but Furlong got a strikeout to strand them and keep the game at 3-0.
“Sean did what he does,” Freeport coach Ed Carr said. “He composed himself when they started to hit him a bit. He threw first-pitch strikes, and he stayed within himself. He doesn’t try to strike guys out. He tries to roll them over, and he was tremendous today.”
With its sixth straight win, Freeport topped its 5-0 start two years ago for its longest winning streak to start a season in more than a decade. The last time Freeport won six consecutive games was in 2013.
The Yellowjackets are scheduled to play their first nonsection game against Burrell on Thursday after having several canceled this year.
“It’s been a weird year, because we haven’t played a single (nonsection) game, and I don’t know if that’s the recipe for success or what,” Carr said. “We’ve had pressure situations from Game 1, and it’s been good for us.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.