BENTON -- The Harrisburg Bulldogs' baseball season ended Wednesday with a rainy loss to the Carterville Lions in the IHSA Class 2A Benton Sectional semifinal round.
The Bulldogs got off to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a powerful three-run homer by Presley Gauch.
"He's been a good hitter all year," said Jay Thompson, Bulldogs' coach. "It was nice to get off to that start; we just didn't do anything with it."
The Lions were not discouraged and they fought back for a 7-5 victory. This lifted the Lions to the championship game, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday in Benton, where they will face the Nashville Hornets.
After the home run, the Bulldogs extended their lead further by adding one more run in the second inning. While senior Jordan Gould hit a fly ball which was caught, teammate Jack Martin tagged up at third, sprinted home and earned the fourth run.
Starting pitcher for the Bulldogs, Dalton Lambert, had been next to perfect on the mound for the first two innings; earning four strike outs (six through five innings) and only giving up two hits (nine through five innings).
Then in the third inning, the Lions' offense started connecting with Lambert's pitches. They scored two runs to chop the Bulldogs' lead in half, 4-2.
"We had some defensive miscues," Thompson said. "We gave up some hits that hurt … our defensive meltdowns really took the game from us."
In the fourth inning, the Lions tallied four more runs to take the lead 6-4, but the Bulldogs' remained solid defensively. They turned a double play in the fourth to end the offensive push and keep themselves in the game.
The Bulldogs attempted to regain the lead in the fifth inning with another huge hit from Gauch. He blasted a fly ball, which hit the right field wall, but did not go over. Had it, the score would have been knotted at 6 runs apiece, but since it stayed in the field, the Bulldogs' remained behind by only one, 6-5.
The rain made an appearance for the final inning and while the temperature dropped, the competition did not. The Lions tallied one final run and then their defense prevented the Bulldogs from scoring any more.
"These guys had a great season," Thompson said. "They battled up until the end of this game. We had the tying run on second we just couldn't get him in. You can't ask for more than that."