COAL CITY – In baseball, all it takes is one swing of the bat to turn around a team’s fortunes.
Never was that more evident than in Reed-Custer’s 6-4 win over Interstate Eight Conference rival Coal City on Friday.
Coal City held a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth, and Reed-Custer had two outs with a runner on base. Suddenly, Coaler pitcher Nate Chapman lost track of the strike zone and walked the next two batters to load them for Reed-Custer’s Jordan Colwell.
Colwell hit Chapman’s first pitch over the left-field fence for a grand slam and a 5-2 Comets lead.
“That came out of nowhere,” Colwell said about his first home run of the season. “[Chapman] threw me a first-pitch fastball and I took a good swing. I didn’t think it was going out. It wasn’t until I got to second base that the umpire told me it was a home run.”
That cushion was all Reed-Custer’s Brent Headrick needed, as the sophomore lefty ran his record to 7-1 with the complete-game win. He allowed five hits and six walks while striking out eight.
“I had a little trouble throwing strikes early,” Headrick said. “After we went up, I was able to get more in control. It’s a lot easier to pitch with a lead.”
Coal City (10-11, 5-5) scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. D.J. Budde and Lane Cowherd each walked to start the inning and, after a passed ball moved each runner up a base, Brad Littleton singled up the middle to score them both for a 2-0 Coal City lead.
Chapman made that hold up, and performed a magnificent Houdini-esque escape from trouble in the third when Travis Schoonover led off with a triple. Chapman was able to strikeout the next hitter, get the next on a comebacker and the final out with a pop to second.
Reed-Custer (16-7, 7-2) got a run back in the top of the fourth. Colwell led off with a single, then stole second. Two outs later, he broke for third. He had the throw beaten, but the ball got past the Coal City third baseman into left field, allowing Colwell to score, setting the stage for his heroics in the next inning.
“It felt like we were very sluggish today,” Reed-Custer coach Jerry Cougill said. “Our bats were very slow. It’s a good thing Jordan Colwell was there to rescue us. His big blow was certainly the difference.
“I thought Brent threw a good game. The strike zone was tight for both sides. [Headrick] walked six, and that’s very unlike him. He had only 12 walks all year coming into this galme. But, he’s a battler and very competitive on the mound. He didn’t want to come out, and our team is at its best when he’s on the mound.”
After the Comets tacked on another run in the sixth on an RBI groundout by Schoonover, Coal City countered with one in the bottom of the inning when Matt Guebelman singled in Alex Wills, who led off with a single. The Coalers put a scare into the Comets in the seventh, scoring a run on a single by Tom Youskevitch and putting runners on first and third. Headrick ended the game by inducing pop-ups to second and short.
“Walks hurt you,” Coal City coach Jerry McDowell said. “We saw that tonight. Give credit to them. A lot of times when a pitcher walks the bases loaded, the hitter will take a pitch. But he was ready on the first pitch and put a good swing on it.
“We had some chances, but we didn’t move runners up with productive outs. That’s something we have to learn from.”