BASEBALL: Holm’s hot bat sparks Dwight comeback
DWIGHT — Not many teams entered postseason play as hot as Dwight, which ended its regular season on a six-game winning streak.
After a slow start in Friday’s IHSA Class 1A Dwight Regional semifinal against Gardner-South Wilmington that saw the Trojans fall behind 3-0 two innings in, the Trojans rode the bat of senior Colton Holm to extend their winning streak to seven games. Their 8-3 win advances them to Saturday’s regional championship.
Holm raked four hits, two of them doubles, and drove in six runs, including three on a bases-clearing double in the fifth that put the Trojans ahead 7-3.
Before Holm’s heroics, the Panthers took advantage of Logan Graham’s shaky start on the mound. They scored three runs over the first two frames off of four hits and four walks while Graham searched for a rhythm on the rubber.
Trojans coach Jonathan Golden said that after a full week off of baseball, paired with the typical end-of-the-year school activities, Graham’s — and the Trojans’ — slow start was to be expected, as was the fire that they caught.
“We hadn’t played since last Friday, they had prom on Saturday, had stuff going on this week with it being their last week,” Golden said. “I figured we’d come out sluggish just because we had that lull here in the schedule.
“(Graham) buckled down in the middle innings, started taking care of business and the bats came around.”
Holm’s first big hit of the game came in the third, a two-run double that cut the Trojans’ early deficit to 3-2 and also, according to the senior shortstop, helped wake his team up.
“Falling behind in the first few innings didn’t affect me much because I knew there was a lot of game left,” Holm said. “When I went up to bat, I had the most confidence I have ever had in any at-bat of my career.
“I wanted to fire my team up, and I think I did what I needed to do.”
It’s safe to say that’s what Holm did. Graham hunkered down and didn’t allow another hit over the next 4 2/3 innings and only issued one more walk.
“I knew I just needed to throw strikes because I had 50-something pitches in the first two innings,” Graham said. “I just needed to settle down and get through the innings quick and easy with 1-2-3 innings.”
While Graham began sitting the Panthers down, the Trojans and their bats continued to ascend. In Holm’s next at-bat in the fifth, he drove in Cal Schultz with a single to left to tie things up at three.
One inning later, after the Trojans took a 4-3 lead when Schultz reached on an error, Holm again delivered at the plate, clearing loaded bases with a three-run double to give his squad some breathing room.
“Colton just had an absolute stud of a game. He’s a kid, who from last year to this year, really changed his game,” Golden said. “He lost some weight and has played some really good shortstop for us this year, but his bat has really carried us the last few games.”
The Trojans tacked on their eighth run before the inning ended and Graham went back to work. With two outs in the seventh, he allowed his first walk or hit since the second when he put Nolan Perkins on first with a walk.
That was the last batter Graham faced because of exceeding the pitch count limit, but Schultz came in with a strikeout to end the ballgame and send the Trojans to the regional championship.
“Logan’s a kid I trust completely, and that’s why I let him stay out there until the pitch count limit,” Golden said. “And then Cal came in and finished the job for us.”
Holm’s four hits matched the Panthers’ collective offensive output, with half of his hits going for doubles. Cade Enerson had a hit and scored twice, while Schultz also scored a pair.
Graham went 2 for 2 with a double and two runs. On the mound, he surrendered four hits, five walks and a pair of hit batters in 6 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out six.
Chris Ruiz, Brandon States and Caydan Landry each had a hit and scored for the Panthers, and Nathan Wozniak had a hit and an RBI.
The Trojans will be back in action today at 11 a.m. to take on top-seeded Ottawa Marquette for the Class 1A Regional championship.
It’s the first regional championship appearance for the Trojans’ senior class. Golden, who is in his first year at Dwight, already had a busy day lined up, but that day is even busier now.
“I’m in a wedding tomorrow in the Quad-Cities, but, obviously, I’ll be here for the game,” Golden said. “There’s no better feeling in my first year here, just getting to know the guys and playing for a regional championship.”