Rader’s trio of RBIs help Eldon baseball pull away from Versailles

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Eldon sophomore Jude Rader connects on a pitch in a game against Versailles on April 26 in Eldon. Rader led the Mustangs with a trio of hits and RBIs.

Eldon sophomore Jude Rader has been looking to turn the corner offensively. 

Noting that his recent trips to the plate have not gone the way he would like, it seems that day may have come Monday night and his fortunes may have changed after posting three hits and as many RBIs for the Mustangs in a 7-4 win over Versailles at McMillen Field. 

“I just had to do a job,” Rader said of moving his teammates around the bases with his bat. “I was just looking to move the runners and maybe score a few and add more runners to the bases.” 

And, after finding some consistency on Monday in his own ballpark, the sophomore will be looking for more of the same. 

“That will make you attack the ball way more,” Rader said. 

Turns out, he was not alone in a successful offensive day for Eldon as the team posted 11 hits overall against Versailles pitchers. After a brief stretch earlier this month where the Mustangs were held scoreless for three straight games, the team has scored 37 runs in the past five averaging 7.4 runs per contest. The team scored 25 of those runs alone in the Boonville Wood Bat Tournament over the weekend.

“The bats finally came alive. At the wood bat tournament the kids were swinging it fine, so maybe swinging the wood bats all weekend helped out,” Eldon coach Chad Hinds said of the recent offensive surge. “Put some balls in play and had some hard hit balls. Good thing to see the guys finally swinging the bat well and good things come from that.” 

The scoring got underway in the second inning where Versailles took an early 1-0 lead off the bat of senior Josh Leake who drove in a run with an RBI single. Eldon came right back in the bottom half where Rader drove in his first run with a single and sophomore Cannon Ahart got a run across the plate off an error to regain the advantage. 

The visitors came back in the fourth with a sacrifice fly RBI from junior Cole Wilson and Leake’s second RBI single put the Tigers back in charge with a 3-2 lead. Once again, it proved to be a temporary advantage as the Mustangs answered right back and took the lead for good this time. Rader posted an RBI double to tie it, senior  Braydy Hill hit an RBI triple, sophomore Kasen Bashore picked up an RBI double off an error and junior Jason Holland hit an RBI double to give his team a 6-3 lead. Rader added Eldon’s final run with another RBI single in the fifth. 

“Hopefully he takes this day and continues on because he needed this day,” Hinds said of Rader. “Hopefully he can take this game with three hits and RBIs and roll with it.”

Versailles got one run back when senior Andrew Thompson drove one in after reaching on an error in the fifth. But, the opportunities were scarce the rest of the way as the Tigers posted just one more hit on an infield single from Leake in the sixth as he led the way with two of the team’s four total hits. 

“Offensively, we just could not figure out how to get the barrel on the ball and credit to their pitchers, the kids did a good job of mixing up velocities and locations and keeping us off balance,” Versailles coach Jason Ollison said.

That would be a duo of freshmen pitchers in starter Jacob Bishop who got the win for Eldon after 4 1/3 innings on the mound and Hunter Hees who pitched the remaining 2 2/3 innings and recorded the save. Hees led all pitchers with a trio of strikeouts on the day.

“Freshmen guys came in today and threw the ball well, defense was there as well and it all adds up,” Hinds said of the pitchers. 

Thompson got the start on the mound for Versailles and went 3 1/3 innings, Wilson pitched an inning and junior Justin Hamrick did the rest. After a busy weekend where the Tigers made the championship game of the Versailles and California Turf War, Ollison went down the rotation amongst his pitchers to give the top guys some rest and he remains confident in the guys down the line.

“They are a good team and coming off the weekend, we were both in the same boat,” the coach said of Eldon as both teams just finished playing some tournament games. “We threw our better pitchers over the weekend and we are throwing our (number) three, four and five guys and they are good enough to get guys out. I really thought defensively, we did a decent job.” 

It certainly would have aided Versailles to generate more offense on Monday after producing four hits and Ollison said the wind may not been favorable with some balls that were hit down the line. On any given day when it may not be easy to move around the bases, the coach just wants his guys to stay the course. 

“You hit a couple balls like that, get a little frustrated and start gripping the bat a little tighter and try a little harder,” the coach said of the foul balls. “In this game, when you start trying harder it usually goes downhill for you really quick. We just have to stay relaxed and focused and have an approach at the plate where we just need to come in and hit the ball in the middle of the field and it will take care of itself.”

Versailles (7-11) was scheduled to host Eugene (9-3) on Tuesday and will be taking a trip to Boonville (7-5) on Thursday for another battle in the Tri-County Conference at 5 p.m. For Ollison and the Tigers it is all about the destination- the district playoffs. 

“Just have to keep plugging. This game is not something you make a lot of drastic changes in this late in the year,” Ollison pointed out. “Just have to go through, do your thing, try to be engaged every day and try to continue to get better. We have it set up pretty good for our district where we have a chance to maybe get in a championship game and make some noise there. That is what we are shooting for. 

“We want to win all the conference games we can, but the end game is we want to be playing on the last day of that district tournament and give ourselves a chance to get out of it.” 

Eldon (5-15) was scheduled to visit Capital City (1-10) on Tuesday and will be taking another road trip to Tri-County Conference foe Hallsville (7-5) on Friday at 5 p.m. As the season comes down to the final stretch, Hinds wants to continue seeing that development amongst his young roster and see what they can do.

“If our pitchers throw strikes we are going to play defense behind them and if we can continue to hit the ball, good things will happen for us,” he said. “We are young on paper and not fully mature yet, but if we do all the things we are capable of doing we can make a run at some things.” 

NICE PLAYS

There were four total double plays executed amongst both sides Monday night and most notably, one where Versailles junior Noah Dykzeul made a diving catch on a line drive at shortstop and threw out an Eldon runner at second who was caught without tagging up. 

“They (Eldon) were barreling the ball up pretty well and Noah made a couple of nice plays and he does so many things for us defensively whether it is at shortstop, third or second. We kind of put him everywhere and get him on the mound once in a while, but he is always engaged and ready to make the next play,” Ollison said. “That is the key to making plays like that and trying to get our young guys to understand that it is not about making great plays every once in a while, it is making every play every time. He does a really good job of being focused in and doing what he needs to do.” 

CONFERENCE GRIND

Eldon was able to earn the sweep over Lake area neighbors Versailles and Osage on the conference schedule this season and it is not something Hinds takes lightly, considering the battles over the years.

“It seems like it has always been a battle so it is good to be the one on top,” the coach said. “Versailles hit the ball as well and made some great defensive plays. Pitchers threw strikes and we finally handled the first few innings and put the ball in play where they weren’t playing.” 

Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at mlosch@lakesunonline.com or 573-346-2132