Knights Can’t Capitalize Against Trojans

Senior Blake Lodde throws a pitch in the 6-4 loss to Troy (Alyssa Savage)

Senior Blake Lodde throws a pitch in the 6-4 loss to Troy (Alyssa Savage)

The varsity baseball team will have to wait until their next game on April 8 for a chance at their 10th win of the season after falling to the Troy Trojans 6-4 on Tuesday.

“They’re pretty solid,” coach Mike Freedline said prior to the first pitch. “They have good coaches, so they’re always fundamentally sound… But I think we stack up well. We have good pitching, and the offense is doing well. We’d like to keep it going.”

Through the first five innings, FHN’s confidence showed in the team’s play, as they put up two runs in the first inning on a Jake Viehman double and a single from starting pitcher Blake Lodde. The Knights failed to capitalize on the early hot streak, though, leaving the bases loaded to end both the first and second innings and stranding a total of 11 runners through the seven innings.

“We let them stay in the game by not capitalizing on our early opportunities,” Freedline said after the game. “When we had runners on base, we struck out a couple of times, leaving runners on. We were taking too many pitches and starting to get down on ourselves. Instead of playing to win, we were playing not to lose… We just weren’t aggressive at the plate.”

Even without the big bats showing up for the Knights, Lodde threw five scoreless innings with two strikeouts and two walks and allowing only two hits to start the game, keeping the team ahead 2-0 heading into the fourth inning. With two outs in the fourth, Jake Kalusniak hit the Knights’ first home run as a team this season, the bomb coming as a result of a hanging breaking ball from Trojan pitcher Hunter Martin. The solo shot got a little help from the ~20 mph wind gusts pushing toward left field, but nevertheless, it gave FHN a 3-0 lead that held up until the sixth inning.

That is where the wheels fell off.

Lodde hit the first two batters he faced in the sixth inning, and he walked the third before being taken out of the game in favor of sophomore Max Brauch. Brauch entered the game with four saves in 8⅔ innings with 10 strikeouts and a .133 opponent batting average, according to stlhighschoolsports.com. The sophomore couldn’t quite get the outs he needed that night, allowing a run to score in each of the next three at bats- an infield base hit, a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly. All three runs counted against Lodde’s ERA (earned run average) because he was the pitcher to allow the baserunners, but it was clear that Brauch was not himself on the mound.

“His pitch count was really low, so he should have started the inning,” Freedline said in defense of Lodde. “That’s just something he’s got to battle through. He got a little wild. He let his emotions get the better of him. Instead of staying calm when you walk someone or hit someone, he started trying too hard and started throwing it away.”

FHN got a run back in the sixth to retake the lead at 4-3 following a single by Viehman, a stolen base, a passed ball and sacrifice fly off the bat of Kalusniak. The inning ended with a Lodde strikeout, a fastball that hit Graham Riley in the back and groundout from Jordan Throgmorton.

Brauch continued the Knights’ downfall in the seventh inning, giving up a leadoff single to Troy catcher Cole Dickherber. After a sacrifice bunt that advanced Dickherber to second base, Brauch faced the top of the Trojan batting order, and he promptly hit Branden Bennett and allowed consecutive singles to Martin, Payton White and Eric Tipton, resulting in three runs that put the visiting Trojans ahead 6-4 in the final inning.

“He’s been awesome all year,” Freedline said of Brauch. “He just didn’t have his usual stuff; he threw too many fastballs instead of changeups. He’s been totally solid, so there was no reason not to think he’d come through for us. He just didn’t have his day.”

The losing pitcher put the situation much more bluntly.

“They just hit it when I pitched it.”

The bottom third of the Knights order went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh with a strikeout and two groundouts to secure the victory for the Trojans and give them a 6-4 record on the season. The Knights fell to 9-2, but they still hold the best record in the GAC South narrowly over the 9-3 FHH Vikings.

“This is a good lesson for them to know that they can’t take stuff for granted. If they play a team they should beat, they need to jump all over them.”

Brauch expressed the same sentiment about regarding the loss.

“We can’t take those kind of teams for granted,” Brauch said. “We still have to come out here and play every game.”

The team is remaining optimistic while moving forward in the season. They play next on April 8 at FZS, followed by a home game against Vianney on April 11.

“It’s just one of those things. You’re always going to have your bad games; it’s what you do the game after that matters. In the end, the goal is to win state and learn lessons and get better.”

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