ANITA — With Lenox runners on second and third with no outs down one in the top of the seventh, lesser teams than the CAM Cougars would have folded and lost control of Saturday’s Class 1A District 13 title game.
Instead, the Cougars fended off a late run by the Tigers, keyed by big defensive plays to take the game 3-2.
The win pushed CAM (21-7) to the Class 1A Substate 7 game against St. Albert (26-12) on Tuesday. Lenox finishes 20-6.
Lenox’s Drew Venteicher singled to start the top of the seventh, and coach Tyler Peterson called on Zach Schmitz to pinch-run for him.
Schmitz took second and then moved to third on Colton Gordon’s perfect bunt down the third base line.
“Colton Gordon, in my mind, the most improved player on our team and possibly our conference, the district games too he’s been phenomenal,” Lenox coach Tyler Peterson said. “He put down a spectacular bunt and he was able to move to second. You’ve got to put pressure on a team like that.”
CAM coach Dan Daugherty then pulled starting pitcher Nick Holste in favor of center fielder Marcus Daugherty, and moved right fielder DeShawn Carr to center. That move paid off.
Jared Hensley came to the plate, and Schmitz moved to second on a pitch in the dirt.
Hensley responded with a shallow fly to center field, which Carr caught after taking a few steps in, and in a continuous motion, fired the ball home on the fly to nab Schmitz by several steps for the first and second outs of the inning.
Kaleb Anderson then stepped up to the dish with one last chance to save Lenox’s season. He popped up to Daugherty, and the Cougar bench mob began.
“Hensley hit that good hit to center field, you’ve got to try and tag and score,” Peterson said. “That kid made a catch and made a throw that will top one of his top memories from high school. That was a spectacular play.”
Most of the scoring took place early on in the contest.
The error bug bit Lenox early on when a hard Marcus Daugherty grounder scooted through the legs of Colton Hogan at first base.
After a Thomas Hensley sacrifice bunt and a Mitchell Williamson single to put runners on the corners, Austin Chester came through with an run-scoring single over the head of Tiger shortstop Anderson to put CAM up 1-0.
Williamson then came around to score on a Nick Holste groundout to first for an early 2-0 lead.
“We were lucky to get the two (runs) in the first,” Dan Daugherty said. “That was huge to jump out ahead 2-0. We probably hit the ball better in the first than we did any of the rest of the innings. It was a good thing we got to him early. He settled in and didn’t give us much after that.”
The only other run Hensley gave up came in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Lenox had tied the game with a run in each the second and third innings.
Hogan singled sharply up the middle with one out in the second, stole second base during Brenden Christensen’s at-bat, and dashed from second to home on Drew Venteicher’s RBI single to left to pull within a run of the Cougars.
Lenox struck again in the third.
Hensley led off the frame off with a double, moved to second on a passed ball, and came around to score on Dawson Tullberg’s sky-high blooper to shallow right field to score Hensley amd tie the game 2-2.
CAM responded in turn, when mistakes in the field hurt Lenox again.
Holste singled to left to start the Cougars’ turn at the plate, as the ball bounced over CAM’s rough field surface and skipped past Lenox left fielder Aaron Schmitz. Holste took second on the play.
Hensley induced a popout and a groundout, and then squared off with CAM freshman Ben Tipken.
Tipken hit a routine grounder to second base, but Tullberg threw the ball away to allow Holste to score for the go-ahead and eventual winning run.
Hensley then walked Daniel Burnison and coach Peterson decided to intentionally walk Marcus Daugherty at the top of the lineup, to get to Thomas Hensley. Hensley flew out to center to work out of the fourth.
The Cougars put runners on in both the fifth and sixth, but Hensley worked out of both situations.
He went the distance on the mound, allowing just five hits and struck out three with just one earned run allowed.
“We got everything out of Jared that we could have asked for,” Peterson said. “He goes over 100 pitches. I thought about making a change early in the game. But the kid’s a leader. He called me last night and said ‘I want the ball,’ and you can’t take the ball away from the kid when he wants it.’ I left him in there and I think he performed excellently.”
The top of the seventh did not represent Lenox’s lone chance to grab the lead back.
Tullberg singled in the sixth and moved to second when Drew Venteicher was hit by a pitch.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, a Hogan comeback one-hopper to Holste on the mound was gloved by the pitcher, who faked a throw to first and got Tullberg caught in between third and home. Holste fired a low shot toward third baseman Jacob Holste who then applied the tag to Tullberg for the second out of the inning.
Christensen then gave the Cougars a scare, only for Marcus Daugherty to break the Tigers’ hearts.
Christensen’s long fly ball to deep center sent Daugherty back on a dead sprint, only to snag the ball at the top of his leap for the third out as the hundreds of Cougar fans in attendance went wild.
“We made some plays tonight that you don’t see a lot of high school teams make some of the plays we made,” Dan Daugherty said. “Marcus went back at that ball, they had two runners on base there and he catches that one over his head in center.”
Cougar shortstop Thomas Hensley also nabbed several difficult grounders to rob the Tigers of base hits.
CAM played the more clean game, which it new it needed to do to win.
Lenox seniors Tullberg, Hensley, Anderson and Cole Johnston’s time as Tigers has come to an end.
“Those first three guys were 4-5 year starters, middle infielders, all-conference players. All-district players,” Peterson said. “Very difficult to mimic those type of guys, but we’ll regroup, reload, and have some more success in the future for sure.”
Peterson hopes that his players take lessons away from games and seasons like this.
“It’s disappointing, but like I told the guys, all good things come to an end. You can look back on tonight’s game and every game we played this season and the young men can hold their heads high and be happy with the way they conducted themselves not only as players, but young men too,” Peterson said. “In the scope of everything, growing as young men and understanding that it is a game but you can learn so many life lessons from it. Losing unfortunately is one of those and being humble is, you never want to feel this, but it makes you a better young man and hopefully father and husband someday.”
CAM 3, Lenox 2
R H E
Len 011 000 0 — 2 7 3
CAM 200 100 x — 3 5 1
Len: Jared Hensley 3K 1BB 1W, Marcus Daugherty (7) 0K 0BB and Colton Gordon CAM: Nick Holste 2K 0BB and Austin Chester. W — Holste (8-1). L— Hensley (4-1). HR — none. 3B — none. 2B — Len: Aaron Schmitz 1. RBI — CAM: Holste 1. Len: Drew Venteicher 1, Dawson Tullberg 1. Multiple hitters — CAM: Daugherty 2. Len: Drew Venteicher 2, Tullberg 2.