DUNKIRK, April 24 - Dunkirk won 7-6 over Maple Grove in walk-off fashion Friday on a rain-soaked Al Stuhlmiller Field, giving head coach Frank Jagoda his 300th win.
"First, I want to congratulate Frank on his 300th win," Maple Grove coach Jordan Rambacher said. "In a way, I guess I'm honored it was against us, but it's a loss."
After building a 6-0 lead after the third inning, the Marauders made their coach sweat out the milestone win, allowing the Red Dragons to tie the game 6-all in the top of the fifth on six unearned runs.
"We fought," Rambacher said. "This team fights. We don't get down on ourselves and we found a way in the fifth. We just couldn't find a way to carry it over (into the other innings)."
But in the bottom of the seventh, Nick Thompson led off with a single and moved to second after center fielder Corey Wefing misplayed the ball. Then, with one out, Zack Crandall, who had struck out looking two of his previous three trips to the plate, sent a line drive over the head of Wefing for a game-winning double.
"He struggled a little bit and he was looking at some pitches," Jagoda said of Crandall. "He swung and missed at some pitches, but that last at-bat, he was really focused."
Dunkirk got on the board early and often, scoring a run in the first, one in the second and four in the third off Red Dragon starting pitcher, Matt Roach, who went the distance on the hill.
"He's a sophomore," Rambacher said. "He's our future. He battles, he sucks it up, I thought he had OK command (Friday), it was just a tough loss."
Juliam Fred's double drove home Troy Smith-Petrella for Dunkirk's first run, then, in the second, Sam Pepe singled, stole second, moved to third on a sac bunt by Josiah Rivera and scored on a wild pitch.
The big blow came in the bottom of the third as Nate Skubis doubled to start the inning and moved to third on a wild pitch. Smith-Petrella walked to put runners at the corners for Thompson, who sent a long fly ball over the fence in left field, giving Dunkirk a commanding 5-0 lead.
"That's his first varsity home run," Jagoda said. "He put a charge in that one and gave us a 5-0 lead. Then, I think we got a little complacent. We didn't put the ball in play. We just didn't put the ball in play anymore. For two innings, we were not a tough out."
The Marauders added another run on a Pepe RBI single before Roach settled in and held Dunkirk scoreless until the last of the seventh.
"That's the first kid that's gone seven innings against us all week," Jagoda noted of Roach. "He battled. He's just a sophomore, so I think he's got a bright future."
Maple Grove got back in the game in the sixth thanks to four hits, a walk and four costly errors by Dunkirk.
"You can tell Maple Grove has some confident hitters at the plate," Jagoda said. "I think their coach did an outstanding job. He kept them focused when they could have given up early down 6-0."
Kass Howard and Gram Nelson highlighted the frame for the Red Dragons, as each had two-run singles off Dunkirk starter Gianni DeJesus, who had held the Red Dragons at bay the first four innings.
"He got ground ball after ground ball after ground ball," Jagoda said. "We just couldn't keep him in there anymore, because we had to change the pace of the game a little bit. He's a kid that's going to be a gamer anytime you put him out there on the mound."
With the game tied, the bases still loaded and nobody out, Jagoda called on Thompson to get Dunkirk out of the jam. He did just that, as he was helped by a nice relay throw home by Tyreek Ruiz to cut down Nolan Knipe, a strike out of Brandon Reagle and a flyout off the bat of Dalton Dubois.
"I like Nick because he's got a little bit more velocity," Jagoda said. "But I also like his curveball. And I thought that if he could get ahead, he could throw a couple of curveballs. He was gripping the ball pretty good."
Thompson worked around a hit batter and a stolen base in the top of the seventh, when the rain began to fall harder than it had all day, helping to set the Marauders up for the win in their half of the final inning.
"It is tough," Rambacher said of playing in the rain. "But there's no excuses there, because (Dunkirk) was playing in the same weather. So, we can't use the weather as an excuse. We just have to show up ready to play ball."
DeJesus finished the day allowing six runs - none earned - on eight hits while striking out four and walking five.
"Gio threw outstanding for us (Friday)," Jagoda said. "He doesn't throw real hard, but he hits some spots. I like the way he climbs the ladder a little bit and gets guys to chase some pitches. And his breaking ball, obviously with the weather, he didn't have it as much. But he gutted it out the entire game and I give him a lot of credit. He was outstanding out there for us."
Roach allowed seven runs - five earned - on nine hits while striking out eight and walking three.