NORTH ANSON — The Bridgeway baseball team has been searching for an identity, senior Evan Bess said. On Wednesday afternoon, the Bandits may have found it in the form of a missed opportunity.

Trailing Hall-Dale by a run in the fourth inning, Bridgeway loaded the bases with nobody out, but was unable to push a run across. Rather than dwell on the opportunity squandered, the Bandits rallied. After two quick outs in the bottom of the fifth, Bridgeway got rolling. Three consecutive hits, and intentional walk to Bess, and three more consecutive hits produced five runs, and the Bandits went on to a 6-2 win over the previously undefeated Bulldogs.

“I think that’s a situation where we build team character,” Bess said of the lost opportunity in the fifth inning. “We’ve been searching for a team identity, and we found it. We’re the gritty team that plays hard right to the end.”

Hall-Dale pitcher Dean Jackman throws against Bridgeway on Wednesday in North Anson. Staff photo by David Leaming

The win improved Bridgeway to 8-5, and was the Bandits fourth straight victory. It was the first loss of the season for Hall-Dale (13-1). This game was much different than the first game between these teams last month, in which the Bulldogs took a mercy-rule shortened 12-2 win. This time around, the Bandits faced the same pitcher, Dean Jackman, who held them to two runs in that season-opening loss.

“During the beginning of the season, we weren’t hitting the ball,” Bridgeway’s Dylan Willette said. Willette’s two run single in the fifth gave the Bandits a 3-1 lead, and the lead for good. “We timed (Jackman’s) fastball up, and I think we really just jumped on it.”

Until Bridgeway’s two-out, fifth inning rally, Jackman was rolling. He retired the first eight Bridgeway hitters and had seven strikeouts through three innings. Jackman got out of the bases loaded, nobody out jam in the bottom of the fourth with a grounder back to the mound for a force out at the plate, a strikeout, and a soft line drive to shortstop Alec Byron.

Leadoff hitter Sean Whalen started the rally with a single. Zach Belanger singled, and Eric Wescott singled to score Whalen and tie the game at 1-1. After Hall-Dale intentionally walked Bess to load the bases, Willette’s two-run single gave the Bandits the lead. RBI singles by Evan Holzworth and Jacob Atwood pushed Bridgeway’s lead to 5-1.

“Give them credit. They came up with the big hits,” Hall-Dale coach Bob Sinclair said. “(Jackman was pitching solid, but third time through the lineup, they timed up his fastball.”

For Bridgeway, Bess was sharp on the mound. Both Hall-Dale runs were unearned, and Bess allowed five hits and no walks while striking out four.

Bridgeway’s Evan Bess, left, and catcher Eric Wescott reach to catch an infield pop-up against Hall-Dale on Wednesday in North Anson. Staff photo by David Leaming

“With my team behind me, I knew I could get away with letting them hit the ball,” Bess said.

Added Sinclair: (Bess) pitched a really strong game. His fastball had some zip on it, and he mixed in the curveball.”

Jackman finished with 13 strikeouts in his six innings, allowing 10 hits and just the intentional walk to Bess. Whalen had two hits for Bridgeway and scored a pair of runs. Willette and Wescott also had two hits.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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