Raiders rally on record-setting day to end regular season with confidence boost and victory
QUINCY — The Quincy Notre Dame baseball team figured out there’s an immediate need for a sense of urgency with the postseason on the horizon.
Another deficit, a lengthy weather delay and a senior-led pep talk brought that into focus.
The Raiders stared down history Saturday in the regular-season finale against Jacksonville Routt at Ferd Niemann Jr. Memorial Ballfield, but when heavy rain, thunder and lightning led to a 70-minute delay, QND trailed 3-0.
It’s the fourth straight game the Raiders trailed going into the fifth inning or later.
“Part of the discussion when we came back from the rain delay is we haven’t proven anything yet,” QND senior first baseman Dalton Miller said. “Our bats were down. We needed to pick it up. What defines a program is how it performs in the postseason, and we weren’t performing like a postseason team. We talked about that.”
Whatever was said did the trick.
In the bottom of the fifth, Miller crushed a three-run home run to right field to erase the deficit, and Brady Kindhart followed with a solo shot to left field for the lead. The Raiders rode the momentum to a 6-4 victory and two historic accomplishments that came with it.
QND finishes the regular season with a 30-1 record, marking the first time in program history the Raiders have reached the 30-win plateau before the postseason begins. They also carry a 27-game win streak into the regionals, surpassing the 2016 team’s school-record 26-game win streak.
The Raiders play their first postseason game at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals of the Class 2A QND Regional against either Rushville-Industry or Pleasant Plains.
“It’s a nice feeling to have those marks, but going into the postseason, we’re 0-0,” Kindhart said. “We have a new win streak we need to think about. We want to win seven in a row. We want to end on a win. It’s nice to make history, but in the end, we still haven’t proved anything.
“We have one more big thing to do.”
Finding ways to win games the way the Raiders have in the last week should help their state title pursuit.
This time, the rally centered around better approaches at the plate.
“We definitely had to flip the switch,” Miller said. “We had to lock in. We had kind of been in a lull, even from the last few games this week. We’ve been in a lull where we aren’t playing to the best of our ability, even though we know every well if we are firing on all cylinders teams will find it hard to hang with us.
“But we definitely needed to flip the switch and realize we had to lock it back in.”
The Raiders had just one hit through four innings against Rockets left-hander Conrad Charpentier, but with one out in the fifth, Colin Kurk blooped a single into shallow left field and put the wheels in motion. Jake Schisler singled to center field, and after Tucker Tollerton popped out, Miller fouled off three pitches before blasting his home run to right field.
“I definitely don’t think that was his plan to throw it right there, but he did,” Miller said. “I was seeing it pretty well, fighting off things I didn’t want. I barrelled it up and the rest writes itself.”
Two pitches later, Kindhart did the same thing.
“It’s either first or second among the best balls I’ve hit this year,” Kindhart said.
The back-to-back home runs completely changed the energy.
“To know that we can do that quick, to know we can make an impact like that, it’s huge,” Kindhart said. “To have the guys in the dugout in there going crazy and giving energy and high-fives, it helps us in the field and up at the plate. It gives us confidence to go do what we can do and want to do.”
QND tacked on two runs in the sixth as Tollerton and Kindhart delivered back-to-back RBI singles. A walk and a double off Miller to open the seventh allowed Routt to score one run, but the right-handed closer struck out the next three batters to end it.
Tollerton earned the victory with two scoreless innings of relief in which he struck out three, walked none and allowed just two hits.
“These guys have put in the time and effort to achieve all of their success, not just during this season but the years and the offseasons leading up to this,” QND coach Rich Polak said. “But they’re not done. They don’t want to be done. Games like this get you ready for what lies ahead.”
Routt (26-5) is the top-seeded team in its Class 1A sub-sectional and will be favored to win next week’s regional at Mendon Unity.
“Today was a playoff atmosphere,” Kindhart said. “This is what we need to get us ready for those big games where our season is on the line.”
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