Byline: Daily Herald Staff Report
Elgin's Brad Nichols was 1-out away from throwing a 1-hit, 6-inning shutout at Conant.
Then the only error of the game led to 4 unearned Conant runs.
The 4 runs held up for the host Cougars (1-1) and gave them a 4-2 victory when the game was halted by darkness at the end of the sixth.
"We were down but we hung in to the end," said Conant coach Mike Fritz. "We could have given up after the first 2 outs of the sixth but we took advantage of every opportunity."
Both squads received outstanding pitching performances through the first 5-innings.
Nichols fanned 7 Cougars and held them to just an infield single by Seth Prather that led off the bottom of the fifth inning.
Conant sophomore Rich Berthold kept the Maroons' bats in check and only allowed 2 hits through 5 innings.
Elgin's Mike Borawski led off the top of the sixth with a double down the left field line and moved to third after Dante Ciccone's attempted sacrifice bunt turned into an infield single.
Berthold retired the next two Maroon batters before Dustin Ackman hit a fly ball to left-center that dropped in for a single and scored both Borawski and Ciccone.
"That was a key hit by Ackman," said Elgin coach Dave Cooklin. "We weren't hitting real well and he came through for us with the single."
The 2 runs appeared to be more than enough as the Cougars continued to struggle with their bats.
Nichols retired the first two Conant batters that he faced in the bottom of the sixth.
Mike Pawula coaxed a walk from Nichols before Prather became the fifth Conant batter to get hit by a pitch in the game.
A ground ball to second by Kevin Sallmen appeared to be the final out of the sixth but the slow roller handcuffed the second baseman and filled the bags with Cougars.
Nichols went on to hit pinch-hitter Mark Viso to force Pawula home and then walked Reggie Lualhati to force in Prather.
Berthold helped himself to the lead when he singled to left, which allowed Sallmen to score the go-ahead run.
Viso scored an insurance run after a walk to Eric Laube.
"We didn't hit as well as we could have but we got the hits when it counted," Fritz said. "Rich gave us an outstanding pitching performance and we made 14 defensive plays without an error."
- Mike Brown
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