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Moline at Rock Island baseball

Moline first baseman Aiden Michna jumps high for a throw as Rock Island's Vincent Esposito is called safe during the third inning of Saturday's Western Big 6 Conference doubleheader opener in Rock Island.

Moline was about as economical as it gets Saturday.

Despite amassing just seven total hits during the day, the Maroons earned a Western Big Six doubleheader sweep of Rock Island, winning the opener 4-2 and the nightcap 8-5.

"At the end of the day, we look at the runs column and not the hits column," Moline head coach Craig Schimmel said. "That's what we've done in the conference season so far. We've been able to get their pitchers in high pitch counts and get to their bullpen."

The Rocks trailed 8-1 heading into the final inning before rallying back to score four runs. The Rocks had the bases loaded, but their rally was cut short when a fly ball was ruled the final out, despite center fielder Sam Monroe dropping the ball.

Whether or not Monroe squeezed the ball in his glove for an out before dropping it depends on which side of the aisle one was standing.

"I saw the umpire made the out call so I thought he completed the catch," Schimmel said. "I felt he completed the catch, saw the umpire made the out call so I didn't think there was any controversy."

Rock Island supporters felt a little differently.

"We shouldn't have been down seven runs to begin with, but when we put the rally together, when we hit the baseball and the center fielder drops the fly ball, the umpire calls him out," Rock Island head coach Jay Wayland said. "It would have been 8-6 at least, or a tie game because we had two outs and everybody was running on contact. ... It popped out of the bottom, he came in, it hit off the bottom and went right into the ground. It just fell out."

The Rocks (7-9-1, 2-2) were in such a big hole to begin with because of their struggles to find the strike zone. Moline (11-4-1, 4-0) only had two hits in the second game but built on its lead thanks to 15 walks from Rock Island pitchers.

The only Moline two hits came in the second inning — a two-run double from Brody Harding and a two-run single from Aiden Michna, putting Moline up 6-0 after the Maroons took a 2-0 lead in the first.

"We were hitting the ball hard, just at people so we knew we had to do some stuff on the bases and produce a couple runs within ourselves," Harding said. "We had times where we'd do a job, get a guy over, make a bunt, read a ball in the dirt. Just put yourself in scoring position and find a way to score."

Harding went 3-for-5 in the doubleheader and added three stolen bases, including a steal of home in the fourth inning of Game 2 to add to the Moline lead.

"I saw the catcher go down to his knees a couple pitches before and just kind of lob it back to the pitcher," Harding said. "So I thought, if I could get a good read on it and get a good jump, I was going to go."

The Rocks' seventh-inning comeback came on the strength of a two-run home run from Bryce Trask and a solo shot from Charlie Allison to cut the lead to 8-4. Vincent Esposito drove in another run to cut the lead to 8-5, and the Rocks loaded the bases before the fly ball to center field.

The Rocks had a chance to jump out to an early lead in the first game, an RBI single from Esposito tying the game up 1-1 with one out and the bases loaded in the first.

Aiden Michna ended any chance of a big inning as the Moline first baseman snared a low line drive and rolled over to first for an inning-ending double play.

"I was just trying to play up a bit, maybe get a double play and I saw the ball come at me, just tried to react and help my pitcher out there," Michna said. "It was right there. I had to leave my feet a little bit. It was real close to a ground ball. That was a huge momentum boost and really set us right."

Michna went 2-for-7 with four RBIs in the two games, including an RBI groundout that gave Moline a 2-1 lead in the third inning of the opener. Moline upped its lead to 3-1 on an RBI double from Jacob Pauwels in the fifth inning.

Rock Island cut the lead to 3-2 on an RBI single from Jesse Linch, but Moline regained the two-run lead on a pair of balks that allowed Harding to score.

Rock Island ended the day with 21 walks and three balks.

"I don't know what was up with the pitching today," Wayland said. "They didn't have a day today. Everybody in the world knows our pitching didn't show up today and that cost us the ball games. ... Everybody has bad outings, it's just unfortunate several of them had them on the same day."

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