CRYSTAL LAKE – With how the weather has been this winter, it was a surprise to Crystal Lake Central and Burlington Central that there was a baseball game to be played Saturday afternoon. The teams played on an artificial turf infield at Lippold Park.
With neither team having much experience playing outside this season, it was hard to have any high expectations. Burlington jumped out to an early lead, which it didn’t relinquish, and held on to beat the Tigers, 8-3.
“I’m proud of the way our guys played,” Tigers coach Dan Badgley said. “The effort was definitely there. No one likes losing, but this gives us a good idea of some of the things we have to work on from here.”
The Tigers fell behind, 6-0, after a four-run third inning, forcing Badgley to make a pitching change. Starting pitcher Tanner Larkins was chased after 2 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits.
The Rockets (1-0) were outside for their first game as well, and coach Kyle Nelson was pleased with how his team played.
“With how little we have been able to practice outside so far, I think our guys did a fantastic job of adapting to the weather and other conditions,” Nelson said. “I told the guys to play simple and not overthink things. We definitely have things to work on, but today was a good first step.
The game opened up in the Rockets' half of the third inning. The rally started with an RBI double by senior third baseman Cody Schuver, followed by RBI singles from Danny Gerke and Johnathan Murphy.
Gerke was also the starting pitcher for Burlington. He earned the win after pitching three innings, allowing two runs on one hit.
“I think the guys who threw today did a good job of keeping balls down,” Nelson said. “Danny gave us some good innings and the other guys followed. You can’t win games without good pitching.”
The Tigers responded with a two-run third inning and added one more in the fourth on a double by sophomore third baseman Frank Berg.
Crystal Lake Central (0-1) was unable to threaten much after that, with just two base runners in the final three innings.
“I’m not overly concerned about the loss,” Badgley said. “We have a fairly young team, and it was our first game. We were happy to get outside and play, and now we have a gauge on what we have to work on”