Cougars come up clutch in pair of games to win invite

Trinity Lutheran’s baseball team came up with a pair of sixth-inning rallies to defeat Eastern (Pekin) and Jennings County to win their home invitational at Alf Snyder Field Saturday.

The Cougars trailed the Musketeers 6-2 going into the bottom of the sixth in the opening game before rallying with seven runs to gain a 9-6 victory.

The Panthers held a 2-1 lead when the Cougars rallied for four runs and hung on for a 5-4 win in the championship game.

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Cougars Coach Ben Kleber said it was a team effort.

“I’m so happy with the way we played today. We’ve been talking the whole time about just enjoying the game,” he said. “That was a big inning for us in the first game for confidence at the plate, and it showed in the second game. They were both good ball clubs, and we did a good job of playing with some confidence and just enjoying the game of baseball and that’s all we were looking for.”

Jennings held a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth when Tyler Goecker doubled and scored on a single by Trent Shoemaker for a 2-1 scored.

Jack Marksberry led off the sixth inning with a single, and Josh Rowe drew a walk. Jake Mau hit a line drive between the right and center fielders to score both runners for a 3-2 lead.

“Jake’s been out at the beginning of the year for a little bit,” Kleber said. “Today was his first day back, the first game was his first time playing. You could tell he was tight and that was a big at bat for him in the second game.

“To play with that confidence and to work in practice and know you’re going to be coming back and playing that’s a big at bat. It’s listening and doing what you’ve got to do to help the team and he did a great job.”

Hunter Morgan and Goecker drew walks to load the bases and Shoemaker hit a line drive down the left field line to bring in Mau and Morgan.

In the top of the seventh the Panthers used a pair of walks, a wild pitch and an error to score two runs, and had runners on first and second when Goecker recorded a strike out to end the game.

Marksberry went 3-for-3 and scored one run, while Shoemaker had a single and double and three RBIs, and Mau had a double, scored one run and had two RBIs.

In the opener against Eastern, Josh Rowe began the sixth inning rally with a walk. Lawson Woods, Shoemaker and Marksberry had hits to drive in runs, and Goecker walked with the bases loaded to force in a run, plus the Cougars were helped by two Eastern errors in the inning.

Goecker was on base four times with two hits and two walks, one RBI and he scored two runs. Marksberry had two hits, two RBIs and one run.

That gave Marksberry five hits for the day, and the team 16 hits total.

Kleber said he received strong efforts from starting pitchers Woods and Goecker.

“They did great,” he said. “They battled. I was going to take Lawson out after the fifth and he didn’t want to come out so I let him go back out for the sixth and he finished it, then we closed it out with Jack, and then Tyler threw unreal.

“It’s his first start of the year and he just came out and battled and threw more than one pitch for a strike and that’s what you’ve got to do at this level. Jennings was a good hitting team and he kept them off-balance the whole game and he just did a great job.”

Woods had eight strike outs, allowed four hits, walked four, and only one earned run. In six innings, and Goecker also had eight strike outs, walked three, allowed four hits and one earned run in seven innings.

Kleber said he likes his team’s attitude. “

I think we’re starting to get it a little bit, and that’s awesome,” he said. “I’m ecstatic the way we played, and to do it in your own tournament that’s even better.”

The Cougars (5-4) will travel to Henryville today.