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Baseball | Stagg seeks more success in clutch

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Facing a late five-run deficit, Stagg did not go quietly.

The Chargers rallied for two seventh-inning runs and loaded the bases, putting the tying run at first. The comeback came up short, however, in a 5-2 loss to Lemont on April 8.

“Fighting at the end against a good team is all that I can ask for,” Stagg coach Matt O’Neill said. “But we’ll see. We’ve got a lot of guys in that lineup that started last year, so there’s no excuse of being too young or anything like that. We have just to be patient with guys and let them do their thing.”

Anthony Sukalo had a sacrifice fly and walked twice, while Mark Wolak delivered an RBI single for Stagg (4-8).

Senior Danny Leach had a solid day on the mound to keep the Chargers in the game. He threw four innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits while striking out three and walking three.

“Danny competes,” O’Neill said. “He keeps the ball down in the zone. He’s always got a chance if we play good defense behind him. His pitch count got driven up by a few too many walks and we had to take him out, but he pitched well.”

Stagg’s seventh-inning rally started with one out when leadoff hitter Joel Harrell drew a walk. Mike Lovell and Bobby Janski followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases.

Sukalo came through with a sacrifice fly to break the shutout, but it was a big second out for Lemont.

After Wolak came through with a single, the deficit was down to 5-2 and the bases remained loaded. Lemont reliever Adam Malley came up with a strikeout to end the game.

Stagg loaded the bases in the fourth inning and had runners at the corners in the sixth, but came up empty both times.

Lemont freshman Cannon Madej kept the Chargers off balance, striking out nine and allowing just one hit in five shutout innings.

“Early in the game, we had some good chances to score, and when you’re playing good teams like this you just can’t leave those runs out there,” O’Neill said. “Realistically, that’s been our thing this year. Our problem has been leaving runners on base.”

Stagg was coming off a big 10-7 win the night before over Richards. In that game, the Chargers came back from an early 4-1 deficit and scored three times in the top of the seventh inning to break a 7-7 tie.

Aiden Taylor and Andrew Speh led the way, each producing four hits and three RBIs. Sebastian Talaga drew a bases-loaded walk to push across the winning run.

“We needed that win,” O’Neill said. “It wasn’t the greatest game in the world. It was a little sloppy. But the way we fought back and competed at the plate was really good to see. So, (against Leomnt), I thought we’d get some better at-bats coming off that game yesterday. But, obviously, their pitcher was very good and he competed well.”

Going forward, O’Neill believes the formula for winning is simple: Produce more clutch hits.

“We just have to get better with runners in scoring position,” he said. “We have to get those big hits and get those runs in.

“We’re going to be playing good teams in our conference and you’re not going to be winning games 10- 9 in our league. They’re going to be tight games, and when you have those chances to score, you have to deliver.”

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