Avon — The Zionsville baseball team needed someone to step up with a clutch hit.
David Novak did — twice. The Eagle sophomore hit a 3-run home run to give the Eagles the lead in the fifth inning inning, and after Avon forced extras, Novak hit a 2-out, 2-run double that proved to be a game-winner in a 9-7 Eagle triumph.
"He really stepped up tonight," Zionsville head coach Jered Moore said. "He was put in two situations where we were behind, or tied, and he came through. He had a good approach all night and I was happy for him."
The nine runs were the most in seven games for the Eagles, and was just one of six instances that the Eagles had more than five runs this year.
Moore said he hopes that some clutch hits can get the offense going, but said the overall approach at the plate from the team must improve for that to happen.
"It can spark us, but to be honest, until we start taking better approaches at the plate, I don't know that it will," Moore said. "We swung and missed, or fouled off, 18 balls today. We have to take better approaches and be more selective at the plate. We have a bunch of good hitters, but we are struggling to put together big innings and it comes down to pitch selection."
The Eagles took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a Novak ground out and a sacrifice fly by Hayden Elsbury.
But Avon scored twice in the first and second innings to go up 4-2.
In the fifth, Novak came up with two on and one out and hit the first pitch over the left-field fence to give the Eagles a 5-4 lead. After Colin Price reached on catcher's interference, Elsbury knocked him in with a single to make it 6-4.
A sacrifice fly by Jack Firestone made it 7-4 in the sixth, but Avon scored two in the bottom of the inning after getting back-to-back walks to lead-off the inning.
A lead-off walk in the seventh also came back to haunt the Eagles, after an error and a wild pitch tied the game.
"I thought Kaden (Hill) and Alec (Rheinheimer) did a tremendous job tonight," Moore said. "The walks leading off an inning are frustrating, but we didn't have a lot of them. It just seems like lead-off walks come back to hurt you and tonight they did."
In the eighth, Kyle Chrisman was hit by a pitch and Cole Conner walked to put two on with one out. After a strike out, Novak delivered the clutch hit.
The Eagles moved to 6-6 in conference play.
Zionsville lost every conference series opener, then came back to win the second game every time.
"It says a lot about their resiliency, but what is frustrating is that we need to have a sense of urgency whether it is the first game of the series or a non-conference game," Moore said. "Last night, I thought we out-played them, but we couldn't score. Today, they had more hits than us, and if it wasn't for their pitching being a little wild, we could have lost. There is a still a lot we have to get corrected."
The Eagles are back in action Saturday with a double-header at Lake Central.