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Prep baseball: Trojans improve to 5-0

BLOOMFIELD — Luke Konczal had never pitched an inning of high school varsity baseball.

Zandrik Allison, Antonio Manning and Ethan Bisgard had never connected on a hit in a high school varsity baseball game before.

It may still be early in the season, but things have so far have seemed to be working out beautifully for the unbeaten Fairfield baseball team. Konczal, pitching in his first game since middle school, retiring the final give batters of Saturday's impromptu doubleheader at Davis County striking out four of the five batters faced as the Trojans improved to 5-0 with a 9-6 win in the opening game of the day before rolling to a 15-1 win in game two scoring six runs in the seventh including RBI hits from Allison, Manning and Bisgard off the bench.

"The guys got their opportunities and they took advantage of it. That's definitely a good thing," Allison said. "I challenged the boys between the games to come out with a little more energy and a little more intent behind our attack. The guys kept their focus throughout the games. We saw a lot of strikes and make a lot of really good contact.

"We've made a lot of progress during this first week of the season, but we're not going to be satisfied. We're going to keep working, but it's definitely a good start."

The Trojans continued their early-season trend of pulling out close games in the opener of a doubleheader put together between the teams on Saturday. Davis County was originally scheduled to host their annual Memorial Day weekend four-team tournament with Fairfield, Van Buren County and Moravia in the field before wet field conditions dictated that the tournament would not be able to start until at least early to mid-afternoon, pushing the potential finish of a four-team, four-game tournament back into the late night hours on Saturday.

Instead, Fairfield and Davis County opened their twinbill with a back-and-forth battle that saw the Mustangs jump out to an early 3-0 lead putting up more runs in the first inning against Fairfield than the Trojans had allowed in any of their first three games last week. Cason Miller responded with one swing in the second inning, unloading the bases with a three-run double for Fairfield before scoring on Dain Burkhart's ensuring RBI single, putting the Trojans up 4-3.

"We've been working really hard on the culture we've been building and having fun while we're out here," Miller said. "Knowing you can trust each other and having each other's back helps you come through when you need to come through."

Adien Fowler came on in relief of Nolan Cremer to stymie the Fairfield rally in the third inning, striking out the side to strand a pair of base runners before limiting the damage of a Mustang fielding error in the fourth to just one unearned run. That run was answered by Davis County in the bottom of the inning as the first three batters reached and scored with a two-out RBI single by Cremer lifting the Mustangs to a 6-5 lead.

"There have been some bits and pieces of some good things," Davis County head baseball coach Todd White said. "We just need to get everything put together to play that complete game. That's something we've just been kind of shy on right now."

As a result, Davis County failed to hold on to their slim lead after five innings. Miller again delivered a game-tying double for Fairfield, driving a ball all the way to the fence in left allowing Aiden Westercamp to score from second base to tie the game at 6-6 as Mustang players and officials checked to see where the ball landed, ultimately finding it in the mud under the fence sending Miller back to second after trotting home hoping for a ruling of a home run.

"I had no idea what happened to the ball. I was just looking at Coach (Allison) and he just kept waiving me on," Miller said. "He told me to head on home and we'd figure it out later."

Ultimately, Miller made it back across home plate later in the inning scoring on a wild pitch with two outs to put Fairfield back on top 7-6. Nate Konczal secured the win in relief on the mound, picking off Deacon West after a lead-off single by the Mustang senior erasing a potential tying run off the bases before two walks, a hit batter, a wild pitch and a balk called on Mustang relief pitcher Houstin Schooley allowed the Trojans to bring in two key insurance runs in the seventh.

"Last year, we lost a lot of close games that were decided by three runs or less because we were so inexperienced. We didn't know how to win those games," Allison said. "This year, we've won a pair of games by a single run. This was a one-run game heading into the seventh. I've told the boys that we have that experience. We know how to battle and how to pull out those games. It paid off for us."

Fairfield responded to the challenge of their head coach between games, coming out on fire in game two with seven hits in the opening inning including Miller's third run-scoring double of the day driving in the last two of the seven runs the Trojans would score in the first. While Davis County (1-3) never got closer than seven runs in the second game, the Mustangs had the potential at closing the gap in the sixth as Allison was forced to go to the bullpen slightly early after Miller began to struggle with a mild injury on the mound in just his second inning of relief work.

Enter Luke Konczal, who was making his first-ever pitching appearance for the Trojans. Despite not having thrown a pitch in an actual varsity game, Konczal felt confident he deserved an opportunity.

"I've been throwing some bullpens recently. I was talking to our coaches about possibly pitching in our game at Busch Stadium (against Central DeWitt on June 9)," Luke Konczal said. "It might have been eighth grade. That might have been the last time I pitched in any game. I didn't throw any as a freshman or a sophomore. I've never pitched in a varsity game. It's different than throwing bullpen sessions, but I was able to locate better and throw better than I thought I would.

"We've seen his ability in those bullpen sessions," Allison said of Konczal. "When you watch him throw, I definitely felt like there's something there that can be useful for us moving forward."

Fairfield will put their perfect record on the line on Tuesday with a Southeast Conference-opening doubleheader at Fort Madison. Davis County also hits the road on Tuesday, stepping out of conference for a trip to Sigourney.