The 2014 Milan Big Reds baseball team had a lot going for them. The squad had all but three players returning from their 2013 club that reached the Final Four. Many on the team were hoping to accomplish that feat again.
Throughout the season, the Big Red offense and pitching had been superb. Everything that could go right for Milan had seemed to go right, and it seemed the dream could happen for the second straight year.
Those dreams were dashed on Wednesday afternoon, as the Big Reds lost to the Chelsea Bulldogs 7-4 in the pre-district game held in Chelsea.
Milan, playing as the home team after the game was rained out Tuesday and moved Wednesday due to field conditions, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 2nd inning. Jake Hendricks and Zach Allen led off with back-to-back singles. After Jake Friese bunted the runners over, Isaac Grubke attempted a sacrifice bunt and reached base on an error that allowed Hendricks and Allen to score.
Thomas Lindeman had a fairly routine start for the Big Reds in the first 3 innings, allowing just two hits in that span. Yet, after Jacob Maas ended the bottom of the 3rd having been picked off at first base, the tide slowly turned in Chelsea’s favor.
The Big Reds committed five errors in the top of the 4th, allowing three runs to score and giving the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead. Chelsea brought eight batters to the plate in the inning.
Milan squandered a potential chance to score in the 5th. After Devin Miller was issued a one-out walk and Zach Alliston bunted Miller over to second base, Lindeman hit a slow ground ball to the shortstop, Collin Steinhauer. Steinhauer attempted to field the ball and dropped it. As he misplayed the ball, Miller rounded third base. Steinhauer then re-gained control of the ball, and Miller wound up being caught in a rundown and tagged out for the final out of the inning.
Following Lindeman setting down the Bulldogs in order in the top half of the 6th, the Big Red offense came alive. After two quick outs, Hendricks and Allen singled, giving the Big Reds runners on first and second. Friese drove Hendricks home with a single of his own, tying the game at 3. As James Carpenter was batting, Chelsea pitcher Jacob Scheese attempted to pick off Friese at 1st. The throw got away from first baseman Tyler Eckler, and Allen scored on the play while Friese advanced to second base. Carpenter would strike out to end the inning.
The Bulldogs struck back in the top of the 7th, scoring four runs and gaining a 7-4 lead. Chelsea loaded the bases following two singles and a runner reaching by a fielder’s choice. Bulldogs left fielder Scott Crews and Eckler each hit 2-RBI singles following the fielder’s choice. Lindeman was lifted from the game after walking designated hitter Ryan Eisley. Despite runners on first and second, Kyle Schrader set down Chelsea in order to end the inning.
The Big Reds attempted to stage a comeback in the home half, as Alliston hit a one-out single, but Lindeman ended the game by hitting into a double play.
Milan head coach Adam Gilles, surprised by the loss himself, was frank in postgame comments. “Fielding was a letdown for us today,” he said. “We got some good hits – including good ones with two outs – but in the end, (winning) comes down to making plays. If we don’t make errors, we have a good chance to win. You can’t give the other team extra outs.”
Despite the loss, Gilles was complimentary of the 11-member senior class. “They were an extremely talented bunch of players,” he said. “They are one of the top senior classes I’ve had as a coach at Milan. It’s too bad that they had to go out like this, but we accomplished a lot and I’m proud of them.”
The Big Reds end the season with a 28-9 record. The 28 wins by Milan this season is the second-most in school history.