By Paul Struck
The bitter taste of a Little League play gone bad stuck in the mouths of the Cherokee Braves baseball team and its devoted fans here Friday night during a heart-breaking 5-3 loss to Lakes Conference rival Storm Lake in a 10-inning thriller.
The loss negated a brilliant performance by Cherokee senior All-Stater Cody Ege, who pitched seven innings, struck out 13, allowed just two earned runs on six scattered hits, and smoked a two-run home run in the third inning to give the Braves a 3-0 lead they would hang on to until the fateful sixth inning when a play borne out of desperation led to Storm Lake's win.
With Cherokee leading 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs and two strikes on the batter, Storm Lake pulled off a successful base-stealing play familiar in Little League when the runner on first casually jogs to second base in hopes of drawing a throw that would allow the runner on third to score. Bingo. Ege threw to second base to get the runner for the third out but the runner stopped in the baseline and Cherokee second baseman Jake Spindler's throw to the plate was late and the Tornadoes tied the game, sending it into extra innings.
Brock Benson got the pitching loss for the Braves in relief of Ege, who was lifted after seven innings of work and his pitch count up. Benson allowed two runs on two hits and three walks, with two strikeouts in three innings against the sixth-ranked 3A Tornadoes.
Aaron Krier got the pitching win for Storm Lake in relief of starter Carson Anderson, who pitched eight innings.
Besides Ege's two-run home run, Cherokee's Jakob HUmmel stroked an inside-the-park home run in Cherokee's third inning ti account for the Braves run total. Alanzo Ruble had two hits and Benson a double for Cherokee.
"It was another extra inning loss," noted Cherokee coach Scott Koch of the Braves second extra-inning setback this season. "It was a good game that didn't end in our favor. We've now lost three one-run games and two extra inning games.
The Braves are 4-6 over all and 1-4 in the Lakes Conference, and play at Le Mars tonight, host Manson NW Webster Thursday, and play in the Ridge View Tournament in Holstein Saturday.