Summit Christian Academy played far from perfect baseball Monday afternoon. But at this time of the year, Eagles coach John Gage isn’t looking for perfection.
This is the postseason, after all, and Gage just wants to see the Eagles live to play another day. And they did, overcoming a shaky first inning to beat Sherwood 7-0 in the semifinals of the Class 3 District 14 tournament at SCA.
SCA, 19-4, advanced to play Holden in the district championship Tuesday as it aimed for a second straight trip to the Class 3 state tournament. And that, Gage said, was what mattered the most on a warm and windy day.
“The big thing I told them is that we survived until tomorrow, and that’s all that matters,” Gage said. “It doesn’t matter if we play awesome, or so-so, as long as we survive until tomorrow.”
SCA starting pitcher Eli Rash survived a tough first inning that wasn’t all his doing. Sherwood’s Nick Miles led off with a high pop-up into a gusting wind that eluded shortstop Matthew McWilliams and Rash issued a one-out walk to Sam Clark. A stolen base and a wild pitch put runners on second and third.
“He struggled a little bit there, but the defense didn’t help him any,” Gage said. “It always seems to come hand in hand when your defense doesn’t make a play your pitcher struggles a little bit. We got out of that jam in the first inning and he kind of settled down after that.”
Rash ended the threat with two strikeouts and settled in to retire the next eight Marksmen he faced. He finished with nine strikeouts while allowing just three hits and a walk over six innings.
“I wasn’t throwing strikes at first,” said Rash, a right-handed junior. “The reason why I started out better in the later innings was because I was throwing strikes. It’s just sometimes you start slow.”
SCA took a 1-0 lead in the second when Perry Worden singled home Russell Cook, and the Eagles broke it open with a four-run third sparked partly by an odd hit batter moment. After Luke Moehle singled for the second of his four hits, Rash was hit in the upper arm by a pitch from Miles.
The umpire at first ruled it a foul ball, thinking it hit Rash’s bat first. But Rash, who said the pitch clearly hit him before it hit the bat, got his base after the umpire had a long talk with Gage and huddled with the other umpire.
“I understand why he called it foul, but it was really right before I hit the ball,” Rash said. “It hit me.”
Miles hit Will Finch in the back with the next pitch he threw, and McWilliams followed with a two-run single to left. Cook singled home Finch for another run and McWilliams scored on a third-strike wild pitch.
“That kind of turned it,” Gage said. “The bottom half of the order got it going early on and we just ticked away.”
Back-to-back Sherwood errors in the fifth inning brought home another SCA run, and McWilliams knocked home Finch in the sixth for his third RBI. That would be more than enough for another victory over Crossroads Conference rival Sherwood, which finished 4-16.
Enough to help the Eagles survive and advance.
“We struggled, but we have to keep with it and power through it,” Rash said.