Roland-Story wins rivalry showdown with Gilbert: No. 2 Norsemen topple No. 4 Tigers, 4-1
Thomas Matthes was in a bit of a pickle in the top of the second inning during Roland-Story's showdown with Gilbert Monday.
Roland-Story, the No. 2 team in Class 2A, had jumped out to a 2-0 lead over a Gilbert squad rated No. 4 in 3A in a game between two former conference rivals. But Gilbert managed to load the bases with no outs in the top of the third.
Eli Eldred doubled, Jacob Papesh was hit by a pitch and Jake Shedarowich walked to open the inning for Gilbert. It appeared the Tigers were going to at least come out of the inning with one run.
But Matthes was determined to come through for his team. After a quick visit to the mound from Norsemen head coach Chris Hill, Matthes calmed down and did exactly what he needed to do to preserve the two-run lead by striking out the next three batters in order to get out of the inning unscathed.
Matthes got Owen Blumhagen and Spencer Clatt swinging then caught Trey Hansen looking for the final out. That tremendous stand set the tone for the rest of the game as Roland-Story went on to prevail by a 4-1 score.
"I got behind and I just couldn't find it," Matthes said. "Coach (Chris Hill) came out and talked to me. I had a 2-0 curveball and it just felt good. I just kept going."
Matthes left the game after four innings. He gave up one run in the third and allowed four hits and two walks with four strikeouts to get the win.
Nolan Faber didn't allow a hit or walk and he struck out five batters to keep Gilbert in check over the next 2 2/3 innings and Ajay Twedt got the final out to put Roland-Story at 17-4.
"This is a big game," Roland-Story catcher Matthew Phelan said. "Gilbert is a close (by) team and we love to battle them and love to beat them. This was a really important game for us. It was just a fun baseball game."
Phelan had the defensive play of the game for Roland-Story. Gilbert's Tucker Hanson hit a leadoff single in the top of the first inning, but he was thrown out trying to steal after Matthes picked up a big strikeout.
"I was feeling really good," Phelan said. "That throw down and get them out — it got everyone hyped."
Phelan also came up big offensively in the bottom of the fourth to help Roland-Story build a 4-0 lead.
Matthes drew a leadoff walk and Phelan came in to hit for Jackson Anthony.
Phelan laid down a perfect bunt near the first-base side. He was able to run by Gilbert first baseman Easton Johnson before Johnson could tag him to put two runners on with no outs.
"I just knew I had to get my job done," Phelan said. "I knew I had to get it down for the team."
Luke Patton followed with an RBI single. Nolan Faber singled in the final Roland-Story run later in the inning.
Alex Berends hit an RBI single scoring Faber and a double steal resulted in another run for Roland-Story in the first inning. The Norsemen finished with six hits and they only had one error in the field.
Gilbert fell to 10-6 with the loss.
"Their first pitcher threw really well and Faber kept us off balance as well," Gilbert head coach Jeremy Eldred said. "Eli threw a heck of a ball game. If we would have capitalized on some things offensively we would've been better."
Eli Eldred went all seven innings and finished with five strikeouts and four walks. Hanson, Eldred, Blumhagen and Hansen each had one hit and courtesy runner Brock Christianson scored the only Tiger run on an RBI from Blumhagen.
Roland-Story 4, Gilbert 1
G 000 100 0 — 1 4 0
RS 200 200 X — 4 6 1
WP: Thomas Matthes (RS).
LP: Eli Eldred (G).