PLYMOUTH — The hits have been coming for Culver Military all season.
But the Eagles struggled at the plate when it mattered most Thursday, recording just five hits for one run as they fell to Rochester ace Aaron Stuart 4-1 in Class 3A Plymouth Baseball Sectional action at Bill Nixon Field.
The Zebras move on to play Plymouth in a sectional semifinal Monday following another semi between John Glenn and Mishawaka Marian, scheduled for 11 a.m. The championship is slated for 8 p.m. Monday night.
Stuart scattered five hits while striking out four with two walks, and the diminutive junior wriggled off the hook several times to oust the Eagles, who left six runners stranded in scoring position, including two innings with runners on both second and third, and a fourth inning featuring a lead-off double that ultimately went nowhere.
“There were some times were Stuey was on a short leash there, and I thought, well we’re going to let him keep battling here,” said Rochester head baseball coach Brian Hooker. “He did. He just sucked it up, and the little guy pitched a heck of a game.”
“We hit the ball well all season,” said CMA head coach Kurt Christiansen. “Today we had a couple unfortunate breaks, and we didn’t have the timely hitting when we needed it. Their kid was pretty good, but we had our opportunities and we didn’t really take advantage of it. He gave us some pitches to hit, and when we hit the ball hard, we hit it right at people.
“One run’s not going to win you very many games.”
Stuart and CMA hurler Kyle Bartelman were locked in a pitcher’s duel through the first two innings of the rainy outing before the Zebras broke through with a pair of runs in the third.
Chad Miller led off with a single down the left field line and was scored on an infield error on a routine grounder to short by Tanner Hampton, who was moved to second on a Cameron Screeton single and scored on a consecutive base hit by Cahner Thompson.
CMA scored its lone run in the fifth to cut Rochester’s lead to one as Ralph Laux drew a two-out walk, and Clint Zumer and Max Terhar tapped out back-to-back singles, the latter a line drive into left that scored Laux.
But the Zebras responded two more runs as Thompson and Chris Messersmith led off the bottom of the sixth with a pair of singles, and Chad Miller drove them both in with a line shot into left after a balk moved the duo into scoring position.
Rochester moves to 11-11 on the season and heads to Monday’s semifinal round, while CMA closes at a very respectable 14-3. The team says goodbye to Terhar and Zumer as well as fellow seniors Ryan Kolden, Alexander Haygood and Jonathon Daniel.
“We have a really nice senior class,” said Christiansen. “We have a couple kids that are four-year varsity players, a couple kids that have been playing varsity baseball for us for three years. They’ve done a great job and worked very hard. We’re awfully proud of them and sad to see them go, but I feel like they’ve left the program in a really nice place and set a nice tone for some underclassmen to learn from.”
• ROCHESTER 4, CMA 1
At Class 3A
Plymouth Baseball Sectional
CMA: 000 010 0 — 1 5 2
Rochester: 002 002 0 — 4 8 3
Aaron Stuart (W) and Carter Screeton; Kyle Bartelman (L) and Kevan Bjornson.
2B: Bjornson (CMA)
Records: Rochester 11-11, CMA 14-3 (final).