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Indiana Bulls regaining championship form after beating Cangelosi Sparks in one-run thriller

Indiana Bulls regaining championship form after beating Cangelosi Sparks in one-run thriller
Coach Sean Laird, left, and the Indiana Bulls have rebounded to win their final two games in the pool play portion of the Geico Baseball City Series. (Photo: Mike Cianciolo/BVM Sports)

GLENDALE, Wis. (BVM) — The 2021 Geico Baseball City Series continued on Friday with a rematch of last year’s championship game between the Cangelosi Sparks of Illinois and the Indiana Bulls. Despite getting down early, the Bulls made sure the results were the same this year, earning an impressive 5-4 win over a tough Sparks squad.

“They’re unbelievable every single year, we go back and forth between them all the time,” Bulls coach Sean Laird said about the Sparks after the game. “They have so much talent and the coaches do an unbelievable job. The amount of ability that you see in that dugout is just crazy.”

The start of the game was delayed thanks to a thrilling extra-inning morning contest that saw the Virginia Canes take down Team Elite out of Georgia, 10-7. The win earned the 3-0 Canes a bid into tomorrow’s championship matchup.

The Sparks were looking to improve to 3-0 themselves in the pool play portion of the tournament. But the Bulls would prove to be stiff competition.

The game began with Xavier commit Connor Misch on the mound for the Bulls, and the lefty would make easy work of the Sparks, retiring the team in order. The bottom half would be more of the same, as other than a leadoff hit by Ohio State commit Keaton Mahan, the Bulls went down quietly.

Action picked up in the top of the second however, as the Sparks’ Collin Mowry sent a solo shot to left to give his team the early lead. Although the Bulls went down quietly, it wouldn’t be long before that they took a lead of their own.

In the bottom of the third, Mahan again got things going with a one-out single. After a walk, Misch came up to the plate but was hit in the face by a pitch to load the bases. Another hit batter gave the Bulls their first run, and a walk and sac fly would help Indiana to a 3-1 lead through three.

After a scoreless fourth inning for both teams, the Sparks were in search of a rally in the fifth, and they got one. A base hit by Louisville commit Trey Swiderski kicked things off, followed by a couple of bloop singles by Brian Daker and Krew Bond. A run would score on Bond’s hit, and an error in the infield would lead to another run for the Sparks.

The Sparks and Bulls exchanged leads multiple times throughout the game, but ultimately it was Indiana that came out on top. (Photo: Mike Cianciolo/BVM Sports)

Misch would be subbed out for fellow Xavier commit Brock Buckley. After a strikeout, the Bulls would suffer a passed ball, allowing Bond to score and giving the Sparks a 4-3 lead.

However, the Bulls were ready to answer in the fifth. Mahan again got things going with a leadoff double, his third hit of the day.

“He’s [Mahan] a big part of the game,” Laird said. “He helps gel guys together and team chemistry is a big part of the game. When you have guys like that that can produce not only in the game but in between the lines, that’s what you want.”

Then, after giving up the lead, Misch made sure to get it back with a hit of his own to tie the game, proving both his toughness and resiliency.

“Connor has been tough for us this whole year,” Laird added. “He’s the type of guy you want in the dugout when it comes to leadership but also when it’s time to get things going. He’s not going to back down from anyone on the bump or the box. He gets after it no matter who it is.”

Alonzo Paul Jr. would later score in a pickle situation between second and first, allowing the Bulls to retake the lead.

The Sparks posed a couple threats in the sixth inning with hits by Luka Radicevich, Jayden Comia and Griffin Brown, but a double play and later a ground out from Swiderski led to a scoreless top half. Meanwhile, the Bulls went three-up, three-down in the bottom half of the frame, setting up a dramatic final inning.

The Sparks did all they could to give themselves a chance, with Bond and Will Flanigan both lining one-out singles. However, a couple foul outs would end the game, giving the Bulls the win and a 2-1 record in pool play.

The Bulls also dropped their first tournament game last season only to come back and win the championship. After a tough 11-3 loss to the Canes on Wednesday, the team has shown its resiliency yet again.

“Ironically, we did the same thing last year,” Laird said. “We bounced back, baseball is a funny game. Some days you’re going to get your butt whipped, some days you’re going to kick somebody’s butt. The games in between are the ones that matter and these are the games in between. They rose to the challenge, you can’t ask for more from there.”

Meanwhile, the Sparks suffer another tough loss at the hands of the Bulls, and fall to 2-1 in this year’s tournament. Both teams will await their fate for Saturday as the Geico Baseball City Series concludes with a third-place game at 10 a.m. CST, and the championship game to follow at 1 p.m. CST.