JOHNSBURG – The execution, at least in most cases, wasn't up to the standard Prairie Ridge has come to expect.
At one point, Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro characterized his team's play as terrible. But the end result was one they can live with.
Prairie Ridge shook off five defensive blunders, got a major lift from its bullpen and turned a pair of late Johnsburg errors off of perfectly dropped bunts into critical runs in a 9-6 Fox Valley Conference crossover victory on Monday at Tigers Park.
The Wolves (7-9, 3-2 FVC) produced four runs in their final two at-bats to pull out the win, scoring what proved to be the game-winning run in the sixth inning when Marcus Sargeant was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
"It's winning ugly – winning ugly," Pecoraro said. "We've had a lot of close ballgames – late innings – when we had chances to win that we didn't win. Today, we came back, we answered back."
Prairie Ridge's rally came after Johnsburg (5-9, 2-4 FVC) took a 6-5 lead after batting around and scoring five runs. Nick Brengman capped the rally with a two-run single.
The lead held up until the Wolves scored twice – first using a Jon Tieman bunt that allowed Jack Myers to score off of a Johnsburg throwing error – before scoring the go-ahead run when Sargeant was hit by a pitch.
For the Skyhawks, who also committed five errors – watching the lead disappear wasn't easy to swallow.
"There's nothing hiding the fact that was an extremely difficult loss and extremely hard to get over," Johnsburg coach Sam Lesniak said. "As a team, we're right there, we're competing with the tough schools, but we have to be able to figure out how to finish a game. That's been a tough spot for us so far."
The Skyhawks had the chance to answer Prairie Ridge's two sixth-inning runs, but failed to do so. Johnsburg loaded the bases – all on walks – but couldn't push any runs across as reliever Jim McKinney got Nic DeSalvo to ground out to end the threat.
Johnsburg also left the bases loaded in the second inning while trailing by just a run.
"If you're going to win a close game, you have to figure out how to manufacture a run," Lesniak said.
Prairie Ridge responded in the seventh inning with a pair of runs that put the game out of reach, again using a bunt-induced throwing error to take an 8-6 lead before Jackson Lasswell came through with an RBI groundout.
Artistic it wasn't. But with the Wolves knowing they didn't play their best baseball and still managed to win, a sometimes sloppy effort came with a silver lining.
"It feels great – we're starting to play better baseball, we're getting better offensively and I feel like we're growing each game," said Myers, who went 3-for-4 in the win and scored three runs. "I feel we're getting there and I think we'll be there pretty soon."