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Tigers take early season showdown against Broncos

Apr. 15—DALEVILLE — With so much weather uncertainty already built in to a compact spring baseball season, it is vital to coaches they get games played when they can, particularly against quality opposition.

The weather and the matchup cooperated Monday as Alexandria visited Daleville in a battle of teams off to strong starts.

Both coaches used the opportunity to get key pitchers some much needed work ahead of a busy week, but it was the Tigers who rallied for four runs in the sixth and another in the seventh for the 9-7 win.

Alexandria improved to 8-3 with its seventh win in the last eight games while the Broncos suffered their first loss after three wins to open the season.

Thanks in part to a season-opening tournament in Tennessee and a stubborn head coach who would not let the rain win completely in the opening week back in Indiana, Alexandria has seen much more action than many other teams on its schedule. Coach Jeff Closser needed pitchers Will Rowland and Kaed Abshire to get some work in, and both were effective.

"Will has been hurt, so this was really his first outing, and I thought he did real well after that first inning," Closser said. "Kaed came in and shut them down."

Rowland was effective after surrendering four runs — three earned — in the first inning. He settled in and retired 10 of the last 13 batters he faced, finishing with five strikeouts and three hits allowed over four innings. Abshire came on in the sixth inning, working around a pair of two-out singles in that frame to finish for the save.

Abshire leads the team in innings pitched but had not thrown in a game in over a week. It was important with a conference game later in the week he see some mound time. He recorded three strikeouts but credited the defense with making plays behind him, particularly Carson Cuneo at third and Aaron Matthews at shortstop.

"We kind of attack each hitter and trust my stuff early in the count," Abshire said. "I have a great defense. You saw great plays from third base and shortstop. We don't win that game without those plays."

It was a similar situation for Daleville coach Bob Wilson and starter Meryck Adams, who is recovering from a basketball injury and had not seen much action on the hill. He also gave up a pair of runs — both unearned — in the first inning but recovered to set down 13 of 15 batters going into the fifth inning before tiring.

In the fifth, the Tigers tied the game on a two-run Cuneo double, which chased Adams. Wilson was happy with the start but saw his senior starter had reached his limit for the day.

"I would march him out there at 70%, but (we're) thinking more long term," Wilson said. "He hasn't thrown since sectional (last year). We just needed to ease him out there."

The Tigers scored in the top of the first on a two-run Abshire double after a throwing error extended the inning.

Daleville answered in the bottom half, earning more with its legs than its bats. Noah Colvin and Bryson Sigler opened the inning with singles, but two walks, a hit batter, three stolen bases, two passed balls, a wild pitch and two Tigers errors added up to a four-run inning for the Broncos.

The two pitchers settled in, and the score remained 4-2 until the Tigers batted in the fifth against Adams. Although he retired the leadoff batter, a walk to Mason Fuller was followed by a Collin Johns single and another walk to Matthews before Abshire's two-run double.

The Broncos seemed to regain the momentum in the bottom of the inning against Cuneo, who relieved Rowland.

Logan Leech singled with one out, and one out later, Josh Wilson drew a walk to bring Ethan Colvin to the plate. The senior hammered a 1-0 pitch over the fence in left for his first high-school homer, a three-run shot that put the Broncos back on top 7-4.

"He's put in a lot of work," Coach Wilson said. "He takes a lot of pride in where he bats in the lineup, and we put him there for a reason, to do just that."

Ayden Ramirez was back out for the sixth after relieving Adams and escaping a bases-loaded jam. He was not so fortunate in his second inning of work.

With one out, Abram May and Fuller singled, and the runners advanced to second and third when the ball was booted in the outfield. Johns followed with a two-run double to left-center to pull the Tigers within one run. Ramirez seemed to avert total disaster when Noah Colvin made a diving catch in shallow center for the second out, but Cuneo followed with a double to right to tie the game and scored when Trevor Martin reached on an error.

The Tigers tacked on an insurance run in the seventh on a Fuller grounder before Abshire slammed the door in the bottom of the inning.

"We lost two games in Tennessee by three runs, and we beat Elwood (on Saturday) by (two) runs, so we've played close games," Closser said. "We play five seniors, so that helps a lot and helps steady the boat."

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.