Despite a complete-game effort from pitcher Josh Conley – following three scoreless innings of relief the night before - the Royals lost 4-3 to Chaska at the Class B tournament Saturday afternoon in St. Cloud.
|Royals SP Josh Conley|
Rochester faces the Class B defending state champion Cold Spring Springers at 5 p.m. Thursday at Cold Spring Baseball Park.
"We've got a great team and we're not out of it by any means," said veteran Royals catcher Dave Rojo. "We're capable of winning multiple games in a row and get back in this thing."
Rojo's belief in his team is valid. After all, it's a Royals team that punched its first trip to state in five years by holding onto an 8-7 win over a gritty Savage Outlaws team Sunday night – a game the Royals led by five runs entering the eighth.
Postgame hope and optimism brimmed for the 39-year-old seasoned veteran Rojo despite disappointing himself and his team minutes earlier. With his team struggling to piece together any semblance of offense, Rojo delivered a clutch hit in the top of the ninth … However, a moment later, a base-running blunder proved costly.
"Rojo had a big hit for us there," said Royals manager/first baseman Drew Block, regarding Rojo's key at-bat. "[But] when we're down two [runs] in the ninth, you got to play a bit smarter. I think if we had to do it again we'd take [runners on] first and third with no out, rather than a runner on third with one out."
Down 4-2 entering the final frame, Rojo's hit followed a leadoff single by Block. However, Rojo was gunned down at second by Chaska leftfielder J.T. Canakes. After the tag, a stunned Rojo proceeded to the dugout to process what transpired.
|Royals LF Matt Stubbs (left), Royals 3B John Opdahl|
But after coming up empty in his first three at-bats, Rojo found a pitch to his liking and hammered it down the left field line. The hit advanced Block to third, but Rojo then suddenly found himself rifled down at second by Canakes.
"He threw me a sinker inside and he's been throwing it to me all day, but I finally got him," said Rojo regarding his final at-bat against Ohnsorg. "It went through, I rounded first and thought I could get [to second] and then I couldn't … It kind of killed the rally at that point. It's a tough one to take."
With one out, Rochester still had hope. But a Conley ground ball to first and strikeout of Royals second baseman Jordan Martini brought the game to a close.
In a game with no substitutions (offensive, defensive or on the mound), Conley was a bulldog for his team today. After earning the victory with three scoreless innings of relief Friday in the tournament opener against Blaine, the Royals hurler threw a complete eight innings today.
Conley, who began the season as a pitching coach/assistant, has played a vital role in the Royals' run. Besides notching the win over Blaine, the eighth-season Royals veteran tossed his first complete game this season August 20 against Savage – a 3-1 win in the first of a best-of-three section showdown.
Despite the recent run of success, however, Conley was critical of himself after the game.
"I wasn't quite as on as I was [Friday] night," said Conley, relating his performance against Chaska to the previous night against Blaine. "I missed my spots on the inside half [of the plate] and it cost me a few times"
The loss may have set back Conley's Royals for one night, but with the new double-elimination tournament format the Royals live to play another day.
** This story was written as coverage of the Rochester Royals amateur baseball team for the Rochester Post-Bulletin newspaper (published online 8/30/15) ... The photos were contributed by Royals co-manager Kevin Ness.
|Opdahl tags out Chaska player at third|
|Royals 3B John Opdahl|
|Royals SS Buzz Hannahan|