MOUNT ZION – All it takes is one hit and a batter can suddenly go on a tear.
Just ask Mount Zion senior first baseman Andrew Auton.
Auton and fellow senior teammate Merrik Eddington ignited Mount Zion with back-to-back home runs in the first inning and the Braves rallied from a 4-0 deficit for an 11-6 victory over Teutopolis on a cold and blustery Friday afternoon.
Auton used the wind to carry the ball over the right field fence for his seventh dinger of the season while Eddington sent a bullet to the left side.
“That was my first one ever in the opposite field,” Auton said. “That makes me very happy. I was just focusing on letting the ball go deep and finally got one.”
It was Auton's ninth straight hit, a streak that started with two hits in a 12-2 win over Metamora and continued by going 6-for-6 with four home runs in a doubleheader at Taylorville.
Auton, who leads the Braves with a .431 batting average, couldn't make it 10 straight hits when he flew out to center field in the third but still finished the day 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs.
“I've been kind of hot lately,” Auton said. “I'm swinging pretty well and feeling really well at the plate right now. I just need to keep it going.”
Eddington was just as solid and went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and one run.
“I'm proud of those two seniors,” Mount Zion coach Matt Smith said of Auton and Eddington. “They've both had probably years offensively that they weren't thrilled about. Those two kids work really hard on their swing and their approach at the plate. I couldn't be happier for those two kids.”
After cutting the deficit in half in the first, the Braves took the lead for good 5-4 with four hits and three runs in the third.
Trevor Durand and AJ Davis also had two hits for Mount Zion.
“We're really starting to settle in with our 1 through 9,” Auton said. “We just need to keep getting better and keep getting hot at the bottom. Once the bottom goes, we go.”
The Shoes (11-6) also unraveled with five errors — none bigger than in the third that resulted in a 4-4 tie.
Lane Belleville and Cody Jansen were a couple of bright spots for Teutopolis. Belleville went 3-for-4 with one RBI and one run while Jansen had a single and two RBIs.
“They have been at moments,” Teutopolis coach Justin Fleener said of Belleville and Jansen, “but we're going to need more than that. You can't just have one or two guys. We have too many holes in our defense and our offense is going to have to come around more to be able to balance that out.”
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It was a rough day for Teutopolis.
Even more so for catcher Cody Jansen.
He was on the receiving end of a nasty collision at home plate, where he tagged out Auton on a bang-bang play in the fifth inning.
He laid flat on his stomach for a short moment but recovered and stayed behind the plate for the rest of the game.
“Cody's taking a beating back there,” Fleener said. “He got run over by that train coming in there. That was a big boy coming in there. I don't think it was malicious contact. I don't think he meant to run over him on purpose. I think it was just a collision at the plate where two guys were meeting there as the ball was getting there.”
Auton was equally sharp on defense.
He nabbed a soft liner and dove to first base for a double play with the bases loaded and no outs in fourth inning. It preserved a slim 5-4 lead and starting pitcher Sammy Schultz subsequently escaped out of the jam without any damage.
“A lot of times Andrew doesn't get the credit of being a good defensive first baseman,” Smith said. “He's really good around the bag. Our guys like throwing to him across the diamond and he's good at picking up balls. Then offensively, he's been a machine lately. He's been tearing it up. It was good to see him keep that focus and keep it going.”
Shortstop Kooper Loehr later capped the game with a spectacular diving catch in shallow left field and threw out a base runner at first for the last two outs.
“You got to love that little guy,” Auton said of Loehr. “I'm real happy for him. I didn't think he was going to catch it. He made a heck of a play. He's got a lot of athleticism.”
Mount Zion's hot bats are coming around at a good time.
The Braves visit Effingham today for a doubleheader with the Apollo Conference title on the line. Mount Zion's 3-1 in conference play while Effingham's 4-0.