By David Sharp
The first three innings of Knox County's varsity baseball season didn't go the way Eagle fans traveling to Hannibal's Veterans' Field would have scripted. Six of the first nine Knox County batters struck out and the other three grounded out to the infield.
Collin Williams drew a walk, stole second base moved to third on a wild pitch and scored a first inning run when Tyler Adams grounded out to Brett Wilkerson at short. Monroe City drew 12 walks during a ragged season opener for both teams.
Cody Morgenstern went 2-4 with a run scored and another driven in while Daniel McMahon fought his way through five no hit innings leading the Eagles (1-0) to a gritty 7-4 victory. Morgenstern notched a two inning save striking out two batters.
Monroe City (0-1) had runners all over the bases during the first three innings. The Panthers stranded 11 base runners on the day, six in scoring position. Knox County played well defensively most of the time. The Eagles got critically timed strikeouts and made plays to get out of trouble.
The Eagles made the Panthers pay for their five errors. Knox County scored in each of the last four innings. Daniel McMahon reached when a fly ball to right field was dropped for a fourth inning error.
Knox County's returning all-stater stole second base. Cody Morgenstern solved Monroe City hurler Tyler Adams for the Eagles' first hit of the season, a one out RBI double tying the score at one all.
"This is the first time we have seen live pitching in a week," said Cody Morgenstern. "The first time through the line up you could tell. When we got through the second time, we got on him. We had good fielding today. We had six errors in our first game last year."
"He (Tyler Adams) went outside most of the game," said Morgenstern of his two double offensive performance. "I went out and got the ball. We want to keep this going and maybe go undefeated this season."
Zach Parrish came through with a clutch two out two run double for a 3-1 Knox County lead after four and a half innings. Dylan Morgret drew a lead off walk and stole second base.
Brett Bryant reached on an error following the leadoff walk. Tyler Adams made good pitches and struck out two straight KCHS batters. Adams fanned 13 of the 32 batters he faced. None of the seven Knox County runs were earned.
Monroe City pulled within a 3-2 deficit with a manufactured run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Leadoff batter Collin Williams drew a leadoff walk from Daniel McMahon. Knox County had the runner picked off but the throw was mishandled for an error, allowing the runner to move up. Williams scored his second run of the contest on a wild pitch.
Two good defensive plays, one from second baseman Parker Dixson and a running catch of a foul ball by Daniel McMahon stranded two more Panthers. Knox County put two more runs on the board in the sixth inning.
Cody Morgenstern led off with a double, moved to third on a passed ball and scored when a throw sailed into left field for an error. Dylan Morgret stroked a two out single. Brett Bryant notched another clutch two out RBI hit for a 5-2 Eagle edge heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.
Two walks, an error and a wild pitch helped Matt Roberts around the bases pulling Monroe City within a 5-3 score after six innings of play. Cody Morgenstern relieved KCHS starter Daniel McMahon at the start of the sixth inning. Morgenstern got out of the jam with a strikeout and Brett Bryant's sure handed play at first base for the final out.
Tristan Lonberger led off the Knox County seventh with a single. Lonberger stole second base and moved up when Zach Parrish laid down a sacrifice bunt.
Daniel McMahon drew a walk and stole second base. Tristan Lonberger scored on an error. Parker Dixson put the ball in play. The Panther shortstop could not field the ball and Daniel McMahon raced home with his second run of the game for a 7-3 lead.
"I couldn't find it and my team backed me up," said KCHS starting hurler Daniel McMahon. "This means a lot to get the victory. We would have had our heads down if we had come out 0-1. A wins' a win. We are glad to get it."
Monroe City went down fighting. Tyler Adams was struck by a Cody Morgenstern fastball leading off the bottom of the seventh inning. The Panthers moved the runner up and pulled within a 7-4 deficit on Alex Griffin's sacrifice fly to right fielder Jordan Harrison.
Matt Roberts drew a two out walk. Tyler Mudd lined a clean single to left field with two out and two strikes on the batter, breaking up Knox County's combined no hit bid.
Cody Morgenstern kept the tying run in the on deck circle when he struck out pinch batter Trey Ziegler to end the game. Knox County scored seven runs on six hits and two errors.
Daniel McMahon was the winning pitcher, striking out eight batters with nine walks and no hits allowed in five full innings of work.
Solid Knox County defense kept potential gift runs off the board. McMahon faced 24 batters and Cody Morgenstern 12 in two innings pitched. Tyler Adams pitched a complete game for Monroe City and faced 32 batters.Dylan Morgret reached base in two of three plate appearances and scored both times. Zach Parrish had a double and two RBI's. Cody Morgenstern and Brett Bryant had Knox County runs batted in. The Eagles stranded four runners on the night.
Monroe City scored four times on one hit and five errors. Tyler Adams was the losing hurler with 13 strikeouts and two walks in seven innings pitched. "We started off really well and then we started leaving people on base," said Panther coach Clint Grothaus.
"Leaving people on base and not getting our bats on the ball killed us. We only had one hit tonight," said Grothaus. "The momentum changed and they started rolling. Our errors really hurt us. I thought offense would be our strength this year. Give them credit for stranding our runners and shifting the momentum."
"It's tough early in the season when you haven't been on the field," said Eagle coach Jesse Crawford. "You are going to go through some battles. Once our pitcher started to throw strikes, everything fell together today."
"We had a combined no-hitter going into the last out of the game," said Coach Crawford. "Cody Morgenstern came in and got a big save for us. He had two doubles. We are happy with the win and to start 1-0. Next week is going to be a battle. We play four games."
The Eagles have their first conference game of the year scheduled at Knox County with North Shelby on March 25. The Raiders blasted Highland 9-0 on Thursday night.
Knox County has another tough home game with Brashear on March 26. The Eagles travel to Highland on March 27 and host Schuyler County in non-conference action on Friday, March 28.
By David Sharp