Almost exactly six hours after the first pitch, the Knoxville and Pella Christian baseball teams exited their respective dugouts with a 19-9, 10-8 split in a marathon night of Little Hawkeye Conference action in Knoxville.
The Panthers looked like they would stage another mammoth comeback in the opener, pulling close after trailing 10-1 at one point. The Eagles pushed the pedal back to the floorboard, though, coming away with a 19-9 victory that went all seven innings.
Pella Christian got off to a fast start in the nightcap as well, leading 3-0 entering the bottom of the second inning. At a time when it would have been easy for the Panthers to pack up shop, they instead bounced back with five runs of their own to take the lead and take back the momentum.
“They responded well and hit the ball – we got a few breaks – and we got right back in it,” said Knoxville head coach Joel Johnson. “They were confident they could hit the second PC pitcher – they said they could get him – so that gave them some confidence too.”
The Panthers’ lead would hold up until the top of the sixth inning, when Pella Christian tattooed Knoxville for four runs and took an 8-7 lead. The advantage was short-lived, though, as the Panthers responded with three runs in the bottom of the sixth and brought in pitcher Justin Katich to ice the victory in the top of the seventh.
Eagles’ head coach Brad Rolffs said not putting more pressure on Knoxville’s defense was a deciding factor in the second game.
“The first game, we threatened every single inning, I felt. It seemed like we always had runners on, [and] we were pretty much scoring runs every inning ” said Rolffs. ”We just had a few too many 1-2-3 innings towards the beginning of the [second] game, and then we were trying to play catch-up the rest of the game. That was the difference, to me.”
Both teams continue to battle through arduous conference schedules tonight, as Knoxville takes their 6-19 overall – and 4-11 league record – on the road for another doubleheader at Norwalk; while Pella Christian is now 9-17 overall and 4-9 in the Little Hawkeye Conference entering tonight’s game at crosstown rival Pella High.