Corey Kunkel pitched a complete game Monday night to lead Mark Twain to an 8-3 victory over Community.
Corey Kunkel didn’t want his final home game as a member of the Mark Twain baseball team to end.
However, the senior was pleased with how it finished.
Kunkel pitched a complete game Monday night to lead the Tigers to an 8-3 victory over Community. The righty struck out nine batters and scattered three runs across 11 Trojan hits.
"It’s not for words,” Kunkel said. "I’m not ready for it to be over. But mostly it was the guys behind me tonight. There were some pretty hard hit balls, and they did the work behind me.”
Kunkel, who threw 103 pitches, took the mound for his seventh and final inning with a lead that was padded thanks to an offensive spark from freshman teammate Preston Eckler.
With Mark Twain clinging to a 5-3 advantage, Eckler delivered a two-out, two-RBI double in the bottom of the sixth that scored Conner Grossmann and Grant Peters. Eckler later came around to score to make it 8-3.
"I would like to think my team helped bring that double to me with the confidence,” Eckler said. "We always want more. We like the challenge.”
With a five-run cushion intact, Kunkel worked around a lead-off single in the seventh to keep Community from clawing any closer.
Kunkel pointed to Eckler’s big hit as a key to the victory.
"A little extra insurance never hurts,” he said. “(Preston) is swinging the bat well this year, so we’ve just got to keep him going well up there through the playoffs.”
In the first inning, Mark Twain got off to a strong start and surged to a two-run lead with runs by Eckler and Brady Hooley.
After Community countered for two in the top of the third, the Tigers responded for three in the bottom half of the frame. Kunkel, Cole Johnson and Loren Carlisle each collected RBI singles to make it 5-2.
A Community tally in the fifth pulled the visitors with two, leaving little margin of error for Mark Twain until the Tigers grew their lead an inning later.
With the win, Mark Twain capped its regular season with a 6-10 record.
"I’m definitely happy for our seniors in particular but for all of our guys,” Mark Twain coach Ian Hatton said. "I’m proud of the way we played today defensively, on the mound, at the plate. Corey threw a heck of a game.”
Mark Twain will face Highland in the Class 3 District 8 quarterfinals on Saturday in Palmyra.
Highland topped Mark Twain 20-4 on April 25 during a stretch in which the Tigers played five games over the course of six days.
This time, a fully-rested Tigers squad will get a second crack at the Cougars. Mark Twain enters the postseason having won two straight following an 18-2 win over South Shelby on May 1.
"We’re on a roll for Saturday,” Kunkel said. "Let’s see if we can keep it going. Our last two wins have been pretty good wins.”
Mark Twain 8, Community 3
Community 002 010 0 -- 3 11 0
Mark Twain 203 003 0 -- 8 10 0
COMMUNITY (2-14) -- LP: Cordell Hollensteiner. Top hitter: Hollensteiner 3-for-4 1 run
MARK TWAIN (6-10) -- WP: Corey Kunkel. Top hitter: Preston Eckler 1-for-2 2 RBIs; Brady Hooley 2-for-2 2 walks 2 runs; Bailey McMillen 2-for-3 1 walk 1 run; Kunkel 2-for-3 1 walk 1 RBI