It wasn't the prettiest base hit, but the bloop single off the bat of Parkway Christian's Todd Krolewski was the most important knock for the Eagles on Tuesday afternoon.
Krolewski looped a base hit just out of the reach of the Franklin Road second baseman with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring Parkway teammate Nick Halaas with the winning run in the Eagles' 5-4 Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red Division opening victory over the visiting Warriors.
"We tell our guys all the time with two strikes you have to grind out at-bats," Parkway coach Rich Koch said. "They need put the ball in play and see what happens. Todd did that and good things happened."
Halaas reached first base on a fielder's choice, with the force out at second base making second out of the inning. He moved over to second base on a wild pitch, before scoring on Krolewski's hit.
"It's not the way we drew it up," Franklin Road coach Mike Harris said. "Unfortunately we played like it was an early in the season game. We had our chances in the first inning with the bases loaded and we only scored two runs. We had a couple of brain cramps on the bases, but they battled and we were right in it until the end. It comes down to making plays and executing."
Krolewski's hit brought an end to a less than ideal game played by both squad, which included the Eagles rallying from an early two-run deficit, gaining a 4-2 lead midway through, before allowing Franklin Road to tie the game up with two runs in the sixth inning.
"Over the course of a 35-game season, you're going to win some ugly ones and hopefully not lose any ugly ones," Koch said. "We'll take it. We made some crucial mistakes at bad times that prevented rallies. But the guys persisted and stayed after it. It's always good to get that first league win under your belt."
Franklin Road gained a 2-0 lead in the opening inning, taking advantage of two Eagle errors. Daniel Weaver had an RBI single, while the second run scored on a Parkway throwing error.
The Eagles tied the game with two runs in the fourth inning, including one on an RBI single by Randy Kohn. Parkway added two more runs in the fifth inning on a two-run double by Krolewski.
"Todd's been hitting for us all year," Koch said. "We love his swing. Early on we thought he would be in the one or two slot of our lineup, but he's worked himself into that five spot pretty well, backing up some of the big bats in our lineup."
The Warriors rallied with two runs in the sixth inning, tying the game 4-4. Scott McSubeeney and Parker Bowmen each had RBI singles.
Derek Dudek pitched the final two innings for Parkway, earning the win. He allowed two runs on four hits and struck out one. Ryan Stewart started on the hill and hurled the first five innings, allowing three hits and striking out nine.
"That's a nice stat line, especially for a kid like Ryan who didn't have his best stuff today," Koch said. "You could tell early on that he didn't have the same energy that he normally does. I was proud of him and the team for fighting. He did a nice job battling through some issues not having his best stuff."
Offensively, Krolewski had two hits and three RBIs, while Phil Lapinski added two hits. Halaas finished with one hit, scoring three runs. The win improved the Eagles' record to 4-1 overall, 1-0 league.
Franklin Road was led offensively by catcher Kyle Harris, who had two doubles. Gavin Harris went the distance on the hill and suffered the loss, allowing nine hits and striking out five. The defeat dropped the Warriors' record to 2-1 overall, 0-1 league.
"He went a lot longer than I wanted him to go," Mike Harris said. "He's only a sophomore and we got a lot more games ahead for him. He didn't want to come out, though."