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Zink doubles home winner in eighth for Southeast Missouri State baseball team
John Logan Zink's observations from a day earlier paid off Wednesday afternoon.
The Southeast Missouri State sophomore watched Hannibal-LaGrange pitcher Josh Gronewold work to three batters during Tuesday's win, and Zink picked up on the right-hander's tendencies.
"He pitched [Tuesday], so I had a chance to watch him [Tuesday] against a couple guys," Zink said. "So that wasn't the first time I've seen him throwing against guys. I knew kind of what his zone was or what kind of pitches he was going to throw."
The Redhawks and Trojans were deadlocked at 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth when Zink watched a pair of balls go past before jumping on the 2-0 offering.
"I was looking for a fastball," he said. "The guy's a slow thrower, so I knew I had to stay back. I was looking to actually go away with it, but he brought one over the middle part of the plate. Just turned on it."
Zink crushed a ball to left field that flew over the fielder's head and bounced to the warning track for a double. Andy Lennington raced around to score from second, and the Redhawks (5-4) shut down the Trojans in the ninth for the 6-5 win.
Southeast coach Mark Hogan decided to use Zink as a pinch hitter for Derek Gibson, who had gone 1 for 4 to that point.
"He's been hot," Hogan said about Zink. "He's done well as a starter. He's pinch hit a time or two for us. He's just a good ball striker. I had a lot of confidence in him putting the ball in play hard and didn't think he would strike out in that situation. He picked out a good pitch and handled it."
Zink, who raised his average to .400, said patience is the key against a pitcher who lacks velocity.
"I was telling myself to stay back in the box, just repeatedly," he said. "After the first two pitches, 'Stay back, stay back.' Just try to hit the right-center side."
Patience proved the key for the Redhawks. They took advantage of six walks and six hit batters.
"We like free bases any way we can get them," said Southeast sophomore Cole Bieser, who got plunked twice. "If they want to hit us, they're more than welcome as long as they don't do any permanent damage to us. It gets in the back of your mind, even if you don't want to admit it."
Bieser said there wasn't any animosity toward the Rebels despite the six hit batters.
"It's just part of the game and we knew they weren't doing it on purpose or anything, so we weren't too worked up about it," he said. "We'll take the free base."
The Redhawks trailed 4-3 entering the bottom of the fourth, but they took the lead because of their patience.
Kody Campbell singled to right field to tie the game at 4-4, then Lennington got beaned to load the bases. Bieser earned a walk to force in the go-ahead run.
Hannibal-LaGrange pulled even in the sixth on a double by Brandon Bennett, which set the stage for Zink's winning hit.
Dylan Lynn earned the win on the mound after throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief. He struck out three, walked one and allowed one hit.
"I felt I had my stuff on the mound," he said.
Bobby Hurst earned the save with a scoreless ninth that included three strikeouts.
"Dylan threw outstanding and Hurst threw a great ninth inning," Hogan said. "We got 3 1/3 [innings] out of those two guys only giving up one hit and six strikeouts, so six of the 10 outs were via the K. Especially with these conditions, with the wind blowing, if someone gets one in the gap, it might end up being a triple. But those were big strikeouts, all of them, and it was impressive to see the boys throw as well as they did this early."
The Redhawks return to action Friday when they open a four-game series against Illinois State. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Capaha Field.