SIOUX CITY — Jared Sitzmann and the rest of the Bishop Heelan High School baseball team are riding a wave of momentum as the Missouri River Athletic Conference season is winding down.
The second-place Crusaders scored seven runs in the final two innings to defeat first-place East in Game 1 of a conference doubleheader Thursday, 11-7.
Heelan scored four times in the sixth inning after the Black Raiders put up four of their own in the bottom of the fifth.
The Crusaders put up just two hits in the frame, and took advantage of three East errors with Nate Zyzda and Alec Patino on the mound.
Brant Hogue drove in the final two runs of the inning with a high-hopping ball that didn’t leave the infield, but the East infield couldn’t make the play.
Then, the Crusaders got one-out hits from senior Josh Meyer (which was a double) and a single by Christian Velasquez.
Meyer later scored on an RBI hit-by-pitch from Mike Pithan while Velasquez and Pithan scored on one of two East errors committed in the seventh inning.
The Crusaders also scored thrice in the third inning on five hits,highlighted by a two-run double from Ben Dixon.
Dixon also drove in the game’s first run on a groundout that scored Sitzmann.
Sitzmann led off the game with a double, and he was 4-for-4 and reached on a fielder’s choice in the seventh inning.
“I really don’t have a different approach,” Sitzmann said. “We came here looking for a pair, and trying to get Game 2. That’s what we’re playing for.”
Entering the crucial doubleheader, the Black Raiders had a conference mark of 15-3 while Heelan was 16-4.
“These kids are 100 percent bought in to win a conference championship,” Heelan coach Andy Osborne said. “The kids are locked in and ready to go.”
The Crusaders also had two one-run wins Monday. The first was against West and the other against Spirit Lake.
“It’s pretty intense,” Osborne said. “I’m just continued to be impressed by the kids and their resilience. They answer the call every time. They didn’t bat an eyelash.”
Last month, East coach Kevin Dicus said that the MRAC is just as good — if not better — than the Central Iowa Metro League. The Black Raiders will see CIML teams at the Class 4A substate level later this month.
“There are some pretty good teams in our conference ... and there are some rated teams in our conference,” Dicus said after a June 29 win to Lewis Central.
East’s big inning, meanwhile, was brought on by a two-run home run by Patino that just cleared the right-field fence.
Two batters before, Zyzda had a two-run double that scored Noah McWilliams and Chayce Patterson. Patterson and Nick Bartels combined to have a three-hit game in the No. 9 spot of the lineup.
McWilliams started it off with a one-out double.
Patino also had a double in the first inning.
After the Patino home run, Osborne went to go check on pitcher TJ Chamberlain. Just as always, the Heelan senior pitcher said he was okay to continue, and gave his coach confidence he would bounce back.
“We’ve been pushing him every week this season,” Osborne said. “He’s such a tough kid. He’s almost comatose. He’s given up home runs before, but that doesn’t faze him.”