WEST FRANKFORT — The West Frankfort Redbirds (7-3) watched the game slip away early and couldn’t recover in a 7-2 loss to the Benton Rangers (10-7) on Monday.
Benton didn’t have to do a whole lot in the first inning outside of being patient at the plate and making West Frankfort’s pitcher Brendan Johnson work. The Rangers scored four runs in the inning off of just one base hit, but drew five bases on balls. All nine Rangers came up to the plate in the first, as it took Johnson 43 pitches to get out of the opening inning.
Johnson came out in the second inning and walked Dillon Poe on four-straight pitches, as that put an end to his day on the mound.
“We had heard that the Johnson kid had a chance to be a little erratic,” said Benton coach Brett Blondi. “So, the message was to lay off the pitches up and hit the pitches down.”
Freshman Reid Baumgarte got the win for Benton. He lasted all seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs while striking out five.
“Reid Baumgarte throwing his tail off is really the story of the game,” said Blondi. “He’s a tough, competitive kid and he understands what it takes to win. He can pitch and he knows how to throw guys. He established his pitches down in the official’s zone and had a really good command of the zone.”
Benton lost 11-8 to West Frankfort in its first matchup on April 2. The Rangers don’t have a senior on their entire roster, but they looked like a veteran team on the diamond Monday.
“We just scored more times this time,” said Blondi. “(West Frankfort) is a good team, but that’s a big deal for a freshman to come down here and do that.
Johnson took the loss for West Frankfort. He surrendered four runs on one hit over one inning, striking out one and walking six.
The Rangers added three more runs in the third inning to extend their lead to 7-0. The way Baumgarte was throwing on the mound, that was all the run support he needed.
Dillon Poe led Benton with two hits in three at bats.
“I’m happy and feel we did a nice job, but at the same point in time (West Frankfort) gave us a lot,” said Blondi. “We don’t have big, strong, physical guys … so, it’s not like we came out here and whacked the ball all over the ballpark. They’ll feel good because of this win, but there’s still things we need to improve on.”
Brogan Rains entered for West Frankfort in the second and settled things down after going down four runs early. Rains allowed the three runs in the third, but slowed things down after Johnson’s rough first inning for the Redbirds.
West Frankfort scored a run in the fourth and another run in the sixth. The Redbirds stranded the bases loaded in the sixth, as it was a tough day at the plate for one of the best offensive teams in the area.
Bryson Dorris, Ryley House, Gabe Campbell, Ryan Hopkins, and Gavyn Woolard all finished with a hit for West Frankfort. Connor Eaton went hitless, but walked twice after finishing 2 for 4 with four RBI’s the last time he faced Benton.
Benton extends its win streak to three games, as they look to keep it rolling against Harrisburg on Tuesday.
West Frankfort has dropped back-to-back games, but will take the week to regroup before Saturday’s matchup against Hamilton County.