After a regular season full of comfortable wins, the St. Joseph-Ogden Spartan baseball team has entered regional play and finding the road just a bit more taxing as a result.
After a relatively easy 9-1 win over Marshall in the regional semifinal on Friday, the Spartans were back on the field Monday to battle the Oakwood Comets, a team that they had defeated 7-1 in the early part of the regular season.
SJO emerged victorious once again, this time defeating Oakwood 7-4 before a sizable crowd on Monday afternoon at the Glenn Fisher Athletic Complex in St. Joseph.
Toeing the rubber for the Spartans was junior Tyler Altenbaumer, who has been short of spectacular, posting a 7-0 record with a minuscule 0.50 earned run average in 41 2/3 innings. Altenbaumer was once again crisp on the mound, but did have some early battles, as the Comets threatened several times by putting runners on base.
The Spartans took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning as shortstop Crayton Burnett went deep to left center, sending a charge into the partisan crowd. Burnett, who is headed to Illinois in the fall to pitch, recorded his fourth round-tripper of the season, tying Coby Miller for the team lead in that category.
Oakwood would get the run back in the top of the second inning, but SJO would forge ahead in the bottom half of the second as senior Isaiah Immke hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Ty Pence from third to make the score 2-1.
The Comets plated two runs in the top of the third inning off Altenbaumer, but the junior regained his composure and stranded the bases loaded once again to stop any further damage. SJO would score two more times in the bottom of the inning to take a 4-3 lead, an advantage they would never relinquish.
“I thought they (Oakwood) did exactly what I thought they would do. They have played some tough competition, and this is the team that we scouted. You can see why this was a tough game for us,” Spartan head coach Josh Haley said following the game on Oakwood’s preparation to play his team in the regional final.
Altenbaumer would go five innings on the mound, while also helping himself at the plate with two hits in four at bats and two runs batted in. He would have had a third hit late in the game, but a sensational catch by Comets centerfielder Josh Young.
Burnett, who threw four innings of one hit ball in the win over Marshall, came on in relief in the top of the sixth to record the save.
“He (Burnett) is a nice asset to have in a late-game situation such as this. His appearance today was made possible by us getting up on Marshall early so we could get him out of the game and use him again today if we needed to,” Haley added regarding his use of Burnett in the late game stages today to preserve the win.
Hayden Brazelton added 2 runs batted in on 1-3 from the plate, while Keaton Nolan and Zach Martinie also were 1-3 apiece in the game for the Spartans, who improve to 31-2 on the season with the win.
St. Joseph-Ogden will face the Shelbyville Rams in the sectional semifinal on Wednesday afternoon in St. Joseph. The Rams edged the Olympia Spartans 3-2 in their regional title game on Monday in Shelbyville.
First pitch on Wednesday with Shelbyville is scheduled for 4:30 pm in St. Joseph.