Jackson-Milton does enough to slip past Niles

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Jackson-Milton hurler Zak Lane fires a pitch in the first inning of a 2-1 victory over Niles McKinley at Wilder Field on Saturday.

NILES — The difference between winning and losing by a run can be as simple as one two-out base hit or one base runner erased 90 feet from the plate, even though they may have happened seven innings apart.

Jackson-Milton got past Niles McKinley, 2-1, after a two-out rally in the first and after wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam in the home half of the seventh at Wilder Field on Saturday afternoon.

“That was some baseball game,” Jackson-Milton coach Kevin Hogue said. “Those were two good teams. Both pitchers did what they’re supposed to do. This wasn’t your normal Saturday afternoon high school game. Usually, they’re high-scoring. Teams are resting their arms. We went after each other.”

The Blue Jays (11-3) used a pair of two-out singles, a hit batter, a walk and an error to plate two in the top half of the first.

“It seems like the whole game, we only got guys on with two outs,” Hogue said. “We didn’t use our first two outs in the best way. We did a good job spoiling (their pitcher’s) pitches and using the pitches we wanted.”

Joe Gallo of Niles McKinley slides into second as Jackson-Milton shortstop Eric Ostrowski holds the tag in place at Wilder Field on Saturday afternoon.

Noah Laster and Zak Lane got the rally going with consecutive singles and Joey Williams was hit by a pitch to load the bases. John Voland drew a walk to bring in Laster, and Scott Mitchell reached on an error to plate Lane for the 2-0 lead.

Lane, the Jackson-Milton starter, worked the rest of the afternoon to make the advantage hold up. He allowed five hits, struck out seven, walked two and hit a batter.

“It was my curveball,” Lane said. “I was just throwing strikes and hoping my team was behind me.”

Niles’ Tre Martin was hit by a pitch to leadoff the home half of the first and scored on Joe Proper’s ground ball to cut the deficit in half for the Red Dragons (13-2). No McKinley player reached as far as second base again until the seventh.

Nick Guarnieri singled to lead off the Niles’ seventh and moved to second as the Blue Jays tried to turn the double play on a ground ball. The throw sailed high, putting Joe Gallo on first, as well. Damion Coleman worked the count to the point Hogue elected to put him on first, loading the bases with one out and ending Lane’s afternoon on the hill.

“I didn’t want to let them get the big hit,” Lane said. “I was just glad someone was there behind me, someone who would shut it down.”

Sebastien Lay came on in relief and benefitted immediately from a botched safety squeeze attempt by the Red Dragons, eliminating pinch runner Parker O’Neil at third.

“That’s baseball,” Niles coach T.C. Guarnieri said. “You hope you can execute plays in key situations. That was something that’s not always in. We didn’t execute the play and they did.

“It was a safety squeeze. He froze on his part. We went through the scenario 10 times with him before the play. It wasn’t his fault. We shouldn’t have been in that situation. We just didn’t execute.”

“This is high school baseball,” Hogue said. “Every coach calls things that don’t get executed. Thankfully for us, that didn’t get executed and our catcher and third baseman made the play.”

Lay struck out the next batter for the save.

“I just wanted to get it over the plate and make them swing at it,” Lay said. “I was hoping my infield and outfield were there to back me up.

“I was a little nervous,” Lay added. “We had played a good game to that point, and I had to make sure I finished it out. It feels good (to get that save). We played such a good game and they’re a good team. It shows we can play with anyone we’ll need to play with.”

Foy deserved a better fate than the loss. He worked five innings, struck out five, walked three and hit a batter in allowing just the one earned run. Proper allowed one hit in two innings of relief. He struck out one and walked a pair.

“Corbin got behind a bit today,” Guarnieri said. “He wasn’t establishing that first-pitch strike. He hasn’t pitched a lot this season and it was good to get him back out there on the mound. (Jackson-Milton) took advantage of the situations they were given.

“Once he got through those first two innings, he had a couple of quick ones to keep his pitch count low and keep himself in the game. He didn’t pitch as well as he’s capable of, but he worked around situations with ground balls, fly balls and strikeouts in key situations. He pitched well enough. We just didn’t give him any run support.”

Lane and Williams each had two hits for the Blue Jays.