Not only did the Helias baseball team throw the first punch Friday, but the Crusaders were also good counterpunchers.
The Crusaders jumped out to a 4-0 lead over Hannibal at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex, then answered in both innings in which the Pirates scored to take a 7-4 victory.
"That is always huge, when maybe they get you in the top half of an inning, that you come back and answer that score," Helias assistant coach Andy Pitts said. "And we did that two innings in a row."
Pitts was filling in for his older brother, Helias interim coach Phil Pitts, who is on paternity leave after the birth of his first child earlier this week. And it didn't take long for the younger Pitts to make a key call from the third-base coach's box.
Zach Backes led off the second and reached on an error, then stole second base. He moved to third on a single by Logan Gaines to put runners at the corners.
That's when Andy Pitts called for a squeeze bunt, which was executed perfectly by Jeremy Braun.
"Getting the squeeze down was a great play, executed by both the baseruner and the batter, and you always like to see that," Pitts said.
The Crusaders added three runs in the fourth inning. Zach Rockers led off with a triple and scored on a single by Backes, who then stole second and went to third when Gaines reached on an error.
Backes scored the second run of the frame on a single by Braun, and Gaines later came in on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.
The Pirates, meanwhile, had gotten just one hit off Helias starter Blake Monson to that point. The junior right-hander located his curveball great early, striking out six of the first 11 batters he faced.