Falcons rally to top Knights

By Brad Fauber

WOODSTOCK — Central senior Hayden Bauserman wasn’t about to let the Falcons give up during Monday’s Conference 28 baseball tournament quarterfinal game against John Champe.

The Falcons, the third seed in the tournament’s six-team field, had trailed the No. 6 Knights for most of the game, but Bauserman delivered the go-ahead single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to cap a four-run outburst. Bauserman, also Central’s starting pitcher on Monday, then staved off a John Champe rally in the seventh to give the Falcons a 6-4 win.

Central will travel to top-seeded William Monroe on Wednesday for the tournament semifinal, which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

“We’ve always been a comeback team. We’ve always been pretty solid towards the end,” Bauserman said. “I don’t know what that’s accredited to, but it’s just something we’re good at. We played pretty well tonight. We didn’t hit he ball very well toward the beginning, but it’s better late than never, I guess.”

John Champe (3-17) starting pitcher Nicholas Able for the first five innings, but Central (11-9) found some offense in the sixth inning.

With Central trailing 4-2, Zach Hamman and Brady Baker — the No. 8 and 9 hitters — jumpstarted the Falcons’ rally when back-to-back singles with one out to end Able’s day on the mound. Knights reliever Scott Schaffler then walked leadoff man Jordan Rau to load the bases, and Zach Herbaugh lifted a sacrifice fly to center to pull Central within a run.

Senior Cody Sager, who was 4-for-4 with two runs scored for the Falcons on Monday, then doubled down the left-field line to plate another run and tie the game at 4-all.

“I went down 0-2 and kept thinking to myself that I’ve just got to keep a clear head and don’t get down on myself, and it will happen,” Sager said. “I just had to trust my hands and get to it.”

Bauserman followed with the go-ahead hit when he singled to left field to score Rau and Sager, giving Central a 6-4 lead.

“I just wanted to make contact. I hit two balls earlier that were up in the air and I just wanted to try to keep it low, because their outfield was pretty good and they were making plays,” said Bauserman, who was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs.

John Champe rallied against Bauserman in the top of the seventh, as Ryan Rosnick walked and No. 9 hitter Matt Ryan reached on an error to open the frame. Bauserman induced a pair of groundouts — the second one off the bat of Nathan Rogers that plated a run — before getting Luca Tasselli to fly out to center, stranding Ryan at third base to end the game.

“The adrenaline was going, I just trusted my defense and I just felt good. I threw strikes,” said Bauserman, who allowed three earned runs on seven hits.

Bauserman, who has battled what he believes to be tendonitis in his pitching elbow this season, also struck out six and walked two in the 132-pitch outing.

“Hayden was a warrior on the mound tonight,” Central coach Donn Foltz said. “I almost took him out three times. I just had a feeling and he didn’t let me down.”

John Champe took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Sam Kirila delivered a two-RBI single on a grounder that took a high hop over the glove of Hamman at shortstop.

Central answered with a run in the bottom of the first on an RBI double by Bauserman.

Tasselli gave the Knights a 3-1 lead in the third inning with a run-scoring double to right-center, before the Falcons answered with a run in the bottom of the third on an RBI sacrifice fly by Sam Cornman.

Schaffler’s RBI groundout in the fifth gave John Champe a 4-2 lead, and his diving catch in center field to end the bottom of the fifth inning prevented a Central run from crossing the plate.

“[The Knights] had no pressure on them. They were the sixth seed — credit to them, I thought they played darn good,” Foltz said. “We just didn’t fold, that’s all there is to it.”

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD