‘We’re heading to Flub’s’ — Edgewood rallies to beat Hamilton in baseball season opener

HAMILTON — Nick Kelhoffer wasn’t feeling his best, but the Edgewood junior gave it his best.

The Cougars rallied because of him.

Kelhoffer smacked a two-RBI single, Robert Eggebrecht knocked in Haydon Simonds and Edgewood rallied in the top of the seventh to claim a 3-2 comeback victory over Hamilton on Saturday afternoon at Stang Field.

“Kelhoffer was sicker than a dog,” Cougars coach Ralph Lunsford said. “He was sick, sick, sick. We about took him out in the fifth. He was like, ‘Coach, I can go. I’ve just got a headache. I’m not that sick.’ I said, ‘We’re going to let you go if you can go.’

“The first half of that wasn’t Kelhoffer. But that tells you what kind of a kid he is. He just steps up and finds a way to win.”

Kelhoffer saw an opportunity to bounce back from going 0 for 3 in his previous plate appearances. Brady Haas and Brayden Smith were hit by pitches to lead off the top of the seventh, and Simonds dropped a perfect bunt single down the third-base line to load the bases.

That’s when Kelhoffer knocked his two-RBI single to right field to tie it at 2-2.

“My coaches really believed in me,” Kelhoffer said. “Everybody believed in me. It’s all thanks to them. I could not have done it without my teammates. They’ve worked hard for me. I might have sucked every other at-bat, but I’ll do it when it matters. For the team, I had to put everything on the line. I just came through with it.”

Eggebrecht brought home Simonds for the eventual game-winner, and freshman left-handed pitcher JJ Vogel set down the Big Blue 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the season opener for the Cougars (1-0).

“We kept getting guys on base. We just couldn’t put the ball in play when we had anything,” Lunsford said. “We had too many strikeouts, and we were really fortunate to win. It’s March madness. Survive and move on.

“I don’t know how you describe ‘it.’ But I know what ‘it’ is when I see it. That was it. They like each other. They work hard. They do things you’re supposed to do. Our dugout energy was good. I don’t think we were great anywhere. I thought our pitching was off the chain.”

So was Hamilton starter Cournell Bennett-McCoy, who pitched four innings, surrendered just two hits and struck out eight. Peyton Davis pitched two innings of no-run ball before Edgewood rallied in seventh off closers Chad Taylor and Conner Bowling.

“We’re still learning a lot of guys,” first-year Big Blue coach Josh Sam said. “A lot of guys got put in situations today that maybe they hadn’t been in so far at the varsity level. We hit a few guys, put a few guys on base that shouldn’t have been on. We left a bunch of guys on that maybe we should have gotten in.

“At the end of the day, I think we gave ourselves a chance to win. We just didn’t make enough plays there at the end. We put ourselves in a position to win, so as long as we keep doing that, I think we’ll be all right.”

Clint Moak had two hits for Hamilton (0-1), which got a run in the fourth and another in sixth to grab its 2-0 lead. Kaleb Powers and Bennett-McCoy each had a hit and scored Big Blue’s two runs.

“The beauty of baseball is that you get to play another day,” Sams said. “I think I was wanting to get this one in myself. I was so nervous about getting this one in. For me, I think it was my nerves, too. We’ve got a lot of guys who are getting their feet wet.”

Edgewood starter Talan Smith went five innings on the mound, giving up two runs on five hits. Simonds went 2 for 3 with a run at the plate.

“We came out with the dub — with teamwork,” Kelhoffer said. “It was integrity and discipline. We’ve put more than 20 practices in, and it’s showed today. We’re heading to Flub’s to celebrate.”


Both teams return to action on Monday. Hamilton hosts Lakota West, while Edgewood welcomes Carroll.

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