Baseball: Dixon ends Burlington Central's season
Gage Burdick laid down a sacrifice bunt with runners at first and second, accomplishing the job and moving the Dixon runners up.
As he was heading back to the dugout, he saw a throw from Burlington Central first baseman Aric Beaman end up in the outfield, allowing two runs to score and pushing the Dukes' lead to three in an eventual 5-2 win over the Rockets.
Burdick took care of the rest, retiring the last six Rockets in order for the win Wednesday in a Class 3A sectional semifinal.
"Oh my God, that is exactly what that bunt was for," Burdick said. "Gotta put on the pressure, gotta move the runners. And that's exactly what it did."
Dixon (17-2) tied things up at 2 in the fifth, and Beau Evans led off the sixth with a double to right field. Andrew Pollom followed with a single, then Jacob Gaither laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt, scoring Evans and putting runners at first and second with no outs.
That chased Central starter Aaron Wojciechowski from the game after he had taken a no-hitter into the fifth. Josh Rodge came in and faced Burdick, who bunted and was thrown out.
Beaman's throw got past Tristan Samuelian at second and allowed Pollom and Gaither to score.
Central coach Kyle Nelson said it was a mistake of aggression that could have paid huge dividends if executed.
"If we execute that throw, maybe it's a double play and changes the course of the game," Nelson said. "It was absolutely the right play for them to make, they just didn't execute on that day."
Nelson said those types of aggressive miscues plagued the Rockets (16-12) throughout the game. Rodge was doubled off second in the second, and likely would have come around to score later in the inning. The Rockets did score one later in the inning when Brady Gilroy scored on an error.
The Rockets added a run in the third when Brady Gilroy singled home Jack Gilroy, but he was picked off first to end the threat. The Rockets managed one hit off Burdick the rest of the way.
"It was just one of those days," Nelson said. "We made a couple mistakes in the basepaths that hurt us. We could have opened the game up if we didn't have those mistakes early on that came back to bite us. But they weren't careless mistakes, they were mistakes of aggression."
Dixon coach Jason Burgess said he too was trying to stay aggressive throughout the game.
"We're going to put the pressure on. They're too good a team not to put the pressure on," Burgess said. "We got thrown out earlier, but if you're not being aggressive at this point, you're probably going to lose to good quality teams."
Wojciechowski finished allowing five hits and one earned run in 5 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking none.
Nelson said there were only a couple hard hits off Wojciechowski, including Evans' and Pollom's in the sixth.
"Other than that, he threw the ball great today," Nelson said. "He was ahead in the count, he had all of his pitches working. He really did an outstanding job today. He had a great season, great career."
Nelson said he was pleased with the season for the Rockets, their first in the Fox Valley.
"I was just glad to be playing baseball, to be honest with you," Nelson said. "Last year got taken away from these seniors, and it was a learning experience for us moving into the new conference. We finished tied for fourth, so that was a really big accomplishment for this group."
Burdick allowed five hits and one earned run in the complete game, striking out five and walking none.
Both Burgess and Nelson said they had noticed Burdick lose his breaking ball in the middle innings. Burdick said he was relying on his offspeed during those frames.
"Around the sixth, seventh inning he started to throw it for a strike, throw it for a strike, and that's when he really started to settle in," Burgess said. "He can really settle in if he puts his mind to it, and it was great to see him zone in and get there."
Dixon tied the game in the fifth when Burdick got the first hit off Wojciechowski, a hard-hit infield single. Eli Dever followed with a single to right, then Michael Ullrich added another infield single to load the bases.
Burdick was thrown out at the plate on a bunt attempt, but an error and a passed ball allowed the Dukes to tie the game.
"These guys never quit, and that's the way it's been the last couple games here lately," Burgess said. "Burdick on the mound just threw a gem against probably the toughest team we played all year. And hats off to them. That first pitcher ... he can play. He did a really good job."
Dixon advances to face Geneseo for the sectional title on Friday.
"Every game like this is a gut-wrencher because these guys take you to the wire," Burgess said. "This is what playoff baseball is all about. Close games and kids challenging each other and playing together. As you can see a good showing of their fans and parents. This is great for our community of Dixon."
Evans had the only multi-hit game for Dixon. Jack Gilroy and Brady Gilroy had two hits each for the Rockets, who ended up being outhit by Dixon 7-5.