(photo by David Jenkins)
The Eagles (1-0) trailed by as much as six runs in the SEMO Conference matchup, and were down 9-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh. But the Eagles pulled through in the clutch, plating four runs for the come-from-behind victory.
"We got a 'W'," said NMCC coach John Jones. "It might have been ugly, but a win is a win. It was awful nice just to get outside and play some baseball."
The game was similar to last year's NMCC-Kelly game, where the Eagles rallied from a seven-run deficit.
"We quit booting the ball around and started playing like we're capable of playing," said Jones. "We started four sophomores today, and those guys struggled there early. But they got their chins up and started playing some baseball. That made the difference."
Holding a three-run lead, Kelly pitcher Chase Deason lost control in the seventh inning. After loading the bases with two walks and a hit batsman, he hit NMCC's Scott Allen to score Zack Dees. Tyler Wagner was then walked, scoring Joseph King to shave the lead to 9-8.
Kelly replaced Deason with Jason Kell.
NMCC's Joseph Baldwin hit into a fielder's choice and pinch runner Brian Murph was forced out at home. But then Wade stepped up to the plate and ended the contest, driving in Allen and Wagner with the game-winning hit.
"It was a tough game," said Kelly coach John Gant. "We made a couple of errors on the mound and a couple of things happened late in the game that took it away from us."
Wade finished the game 2-for-4. Senior teammate Jake Kimball was also impressive at the plate, batting 3-for-4 with two doubles. Sophomore Zack Dees was 2-for-3.
NMCC finished strong, but struggled in the early innings. Kelly plated three runs in both the first and second to jump out to a commanding 6-0 lead.
"We made some really great plays in the game," said Gant. "Offensively we were really strong, but it just wasn't enough. We're going to be okay, we've just got to put it together."
The Eagles scored their first run in the bottom of the third as Allen crossed the plate on a fielding error. Kelly added another run in the fourth inning, then NMCC's bats caught fire in the fifth.
With two outs, Kimball and sophomore Ben Pyles sparked the offense with back-to-back doubles. The Eagles were able to score five runs in the inning, cutting the Kelly lead to 7-6.
But the Hawks answered in the top of the sixth inning. Barry Zeigler drove in Major Burger, then Tyler Schlosser scored to make it 9-6. NMCC was unable to score in the bottom of the frame, then the Eagles brought out Wade to pitch the final inning for sophomore Chris Nance.
"Chris tore the nail off his middle finger," explained Jones. "It ripped it back, and he had blood spatters all over the front of his jersey. He wanted to keep pitching, but he's my number two pitcher, and this is just the first game of the season. I didn't want to take a chance of him ripping it completely off where he can't go next week."
Wade stepped up with the game on the line, retiring the first three batters of the seventh. He later provided the game-winner to give the Eagles their season-opening win.
"They're a good team," said Gant. "I can't take anything away from them. Their players kept their heads up, and that's exactly what it takes to come back and win a game like that."
Burger had a big game for Kelly, batting 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Schlosser and Zeigler were both 2-for-4.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at NMCC, but was moved to Kelly due to field conditions.
NMCC will travel to Notre Dame next Thursday for a 4:15 p.m. game. Kelly (0-2) will travel to Dexter on Tuesday at 4 p.m.