Roth helps Clinton wrap up Rock South
Gutty base-running by Cody Risseeuw and a clutch swing by Clinton High sophomore pitching ace Aaron Roth delivered an outright Rock Valley South baseball title for the Cougars via a 4-3 victory over Turner here Monday.
Clinton (17-5) finished 13-3 in the conference to win the title by two games over defending champion Turner (16-5, 11-5) and Orfordville Parkview.
With the scored tied at 3-3 in the top of the seventh, Risseeuw, a ninth-hitting freshman center fielder, got a leadoff single into right-center. That chased Turner senior ace Aaron Jones.
After a flyout, Zach Wisowaty banged a come-backer off Turner reliever A.J. Bernstein's leg and into shallow right field. Risseeuw got the green light from coach Scott Cernek at third base and hit the accelerator, deftly cutting second base before sliding head-first into third.
"He was yelling pretty hard to get to three," Risseeuw said. "Just the same, I was still scared, not knowing where the ball was."
Then, facing a 2-2 count, Roth stroked a high-and-tight fastball into center field for a sacrifice fly that proved to be the winning run.
"I believed I was going to get a fastball; so I was sitting on it and waiting for the curveball," Roth said. "All I was thinking of was, ‘Just put it in play.' Wherever it was, I was gonna hit it."
Cernek had faith in his ace, who picked up his second win over the Trojans in five days, allowing him to work the seventh after a rough-and-tumble sixth that saw three Turner runs score on just two singles.
After hitting the first two Trojans with pitches and allowing a pair of RBI groundouts and a game-tying single that Tyler Reece banged back through the middle in the sixth, Roth closed the seventh.
Austin Andrews reached on an error, but Roth then struck out catcher Jordan Conway on a curveball that fell off the outside corner. Roth also erased Andrews with a devasting pickoff move as he whirled and threw to first baseman Chris Ruosch.
"This game wouldn't be over if Aaron didn't make that quick move to first," Cernek said. "You can't blame the base-runner. It was just a lightning-quick move."
After Roth walked Sam Burns and gave up a second hit to Jones, Clinton third baseman Richard Kruckenberg made a slick unassisted play on a Bernstein one-hopper to wrap up Clinton's first championship season since 2004.
Roth used 84 pitches to gut out a complete game and wrap up an undefeated season in a muggy heat that saw tempereatures reach the mid-90s.
Jones struck out five, walked one and scattered five hits. He allowed four runs—two earned—to lose his rematch with Roth.
"Aaron was just a pitch or two better," Cernek said.
After Wisowaty smacked a double off Jones with one out in the first, the Cougars jumped out front when cleanup hitter James Kollasch fisted a fastball into center field, driving in the fleet-footed "Wiz."
Two Trojan errors led to an unearned run in the fifth. Clinton capitalized on another break—Kruckenberg reaching on a third-strike swing at a wild pitch—when junior catcher Dane Brandl lined an RBI single through the left side with two outs in the sixth to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead.
Turner's five losses have all been by one run, including a 2-1 setback in Clinton last Thursday. This is just the third year in the last 11 that the Trojans haven't at least shared a conference title.
"To win it outright, it just feels much better this way," Risseeuw said. "Turner hasn't shared in the past. We're not sharing this one."
CLINTON 4, TURNER 3
Clinton (ab-r-h-rbi)—Cernek, 2b, 4-0-0-0; Wisowaty, ss, 3-1-2-0; Roth, p, 3-0-1-1; Kollasch, rf, 3-0-1-1; Kruckenberg, 3b, 3-0-0-0; North, lf, 3-1-0-0; Brandl, c, 3-1-1-1; Ruosch, 1b, 3-0-0-0; Risseeuw, cf, 3-1-1-0. Totals: 28-4-6-3.
Turner (ab-r-h-rbi)—Conway, c, 3-1-0-0; Burns, 2b, 1-1-0-0; Jones, p, 4-0-2-0; Bernstein, cf, 3-1-0-0; Jensen, rf, 4-0-0-1; Hall, 1b, 3-0-2-0; Reece, lf, 2-0-1-1; Mikkelsen, ph, 1-0-0-0; Jacobs, 3b, 2-0-1-0; Andrews, ss, 2-0-0-0. Totals: 25-3-6-2.
Clinton 100 020 1—4
Turner 000 003 0—3
E—Clinton 1, Beloit Turner 2. LOB—Clinton 6, Beloit Turner 7. 2B—Wisowaty. SB—Brandl, Bernstein, Jacobs.