Des Plaines, Illinois - The Delta College baseball team lost a heart breaker in 10 innings on Saturday in game one of their best-of-three Super Regional series against Oakton Community College. In a contest that matched up two distinctly different styles of baseball, the Pioneers fought back from a five run deficit to tie the game and force extras before succumbing, 10-9.
In facing the defending national champions, Delta showed no fear as they plated three runs in their first at-bat courtesy of three straight suicide squeeze bunts. Matt Fisher stroked a one-out single followed by Nick Johnson and Carson Longstreth walks to load the bases. Nolan Raymond laid a bunt down the first base line to score Fisher and with nobody covering the bag, Raymond found himself safe and the Pioneers with a 1-0 lead. Braeden Lamberg followed suit with a squeeze to score Johnson and the bases remained loaded when he was also safe at first. It wasn't until Cam Floyd bunted Longstreth home that the Owls were finally able to secure an out and by then it was 3-0 Delta.
A walk, a single and a throwing error gave Oakton two runs in the bottom of the first and the score remained 3-2 in favor of Delta until the bottom of the fifth. That's when the home team Owls scored six runs on five hits, two hit batters and another Pioneer error to take a commanding 8-3 lead. An inning later the sky opened up and rain delayed the game for five hours.
When the seventh inning arrived, it was 7pm and Delta was facing a five-run deficit. But a new pitcher was on the hill for Oakton and it brought new life to the Pioneer bats.
Andrew Gauthier led off the top of the seventh with a single before Cam Fowler drew a walk to put runners at first and second. Matt Fisher followed with a sharp single to left to load the bases and Delta was threatening for the first time since the first inning. Back to back RBI walks by Johnson and Longstreth made it an 8-5 game and a Raymond fly ball scored Fisher to make it 8-6.
With one out and runners at first and third, Johnson raced home on a fake-squeeze play to make it 8-7 and when Braeden Lamberg hit a sharp single to center to score Longstreth from second, the JOEs had put up a five-spot and the game was tied, 8-8.
Meanwhile, Alex Dingee was working his third inning of relief in the bottom of the seventh for Delta starter Jackson Lund and gave up a leadoff double. A sacrifice bunt moved the Oakton runner to third base with one out and an intentional walk put runners at the corners. Dingee struck the five-hitter out and walked the sixth hitter before a line-drive shot to left field was caught by Gauthier to end the inning, the threat and keep the game tied.
After Delta went down in order in the top of the eighth, Joe Tany toed the rubber and replaced Dingee to pitch the bottom half. He made quick work of his first batter, striking him out on four pitched before giving up a solo shot to left that gave Oakton a 9-8 lead heading into the top of the ninth where the JOEs would face the Oakton closer.
Nick Johnson drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a Longstreth single to left. Nolan Raymond then hit a fly ball to centerfield where the Oakton outfielder attempted a nonchalant catch – and dropped the ball. With the bases loaded and one out, Delta ran a fake-squeeze that saw the ball get launched to the backstop and allowed Johnson to score the game tying run. Two more attempts at a squeeze were fouled off, ending in a strikeout before a fly ball to right ended the inning and stranded the potential game-winner at third base.
Tany worked a scoreless ninth to push the game in to extra innings but Delta didn't score in the top of the tenth. A one out double by Oakton in the bottom of the tenth was followed with an infield single to put runners at first and third. Tany then got a strikeout for out number two before giving up a seeing-eye single to center that scored a run and gave Oakton a hard-fought, 10-9 victory.
Despite being outhit 18 to 8 with no extra-basehits, Delta was able to play a brand of baseball Oakton wasn't accustomed to, aptly named 'JOE Ball', and almost pulled out a victory. They were led by Lamberg's two hits and two RBI along with Matt Fisher's two hits and two runs. Nolan Raymond added a hit and two RBI as well.
Joe Tany was saddled with the loss, throwing two and two-thirds innings and giving up two earned runs on four hits while striking out four. Delta is now 28-25 on the season.