CHARLESTON -- The Charleston Bluejays opened the Mississippi County Wood Bat Classic against the Stoutland Tigers, the state's second-ranked Class 1 team, at Hillhouse Park on Friday.
Charleston (3-9) battled undefeated Stoutland (9-0) on even terms before dropping a 10-9 heartbreaker in 12 innings.
The Bluejays literally ran themselves out of a win, getting picked off or caught in rundowns six times, caught stealing twice, thrown out at the plate once and being called for runner interference once.
"We did run ourselves out of it and I don't really know what was going on," said Charleston coach Mike Minner. "It wasn't a situation where I was trying to be too aggressive. Our kids just didn't execute on the basepaths tonight and it was some stuff that we work on everyday. Our inability to run the bases might have cost us the ballgame."
Tied at 9 after seven innings of play, the final five frames went scoreless until Stoutland managed to push across the winning run in the top of the 12th.
A leadoff hit followed by a base on balls and a double steal put Tiger runners on second and third with one out. Stoutland's Cory Kyle, the winning pitcher in relief, slid in just under catcher Zach Rowland's tag at the plate with the gamewinner.
A double-clutch throw on a fielder's choice grounder was just tardy enough to give the baserunner a chance to get in safely.
"We didn't know what to do with the ball in some crucial situations," said Minner.
Brink Naile, the third Bluejay pitcher, took the loss despite four innings of brilliant one-hit relief.
The 'Jays blew an excellent opportunity to hang a first defeat on Stoutland and advance to the winner's bracket.
Trailing 6-3 going into the bottom of the fifth, Charleston scratched out five runs on just one hit to go ahead 8-6. Three Stoutland errors and four walks wrapped around Chase McClendon's two-out, two-run single pushed the 'Jays to their first and only lead of the day at 8-6.
After a scoreless sixth inning, the Jays, with righthander Jamie Barber on the mound in relief of starter Tyler McCann, needed just three outs to close out the Tigers.
A costly one-out error kept the inning alive. Then back-to-back basehits followed by a hit batsman allowed Stoutland to draw even at 8.
A sacrifice fly plated the go-ahead run to put the 'Jays in a 9-8 deficit.
"Jamie's been my ace," Minner said. "He's pitched himself into that role and been our go-to guy all year. We should have made a couple of plays to end the ballgame and it slipped away from us.
"We feel like we should have won it right there," he added.
The 'Jays committed five errors as did Stoutland.
The resilient Bluejays did muster one final comeback effort.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Bluejays' Jarryd Smith reached on a throwing error, advanced to second on a comebacker, then went to third on Stoutland's second miscue of the inning.
Tommy Starr's clutch two-out RBI infield single drove home Smith with the tying run.
The Bluejays, led by Colin Gilooly's three singles in six at-bats, outhit Stoutland 13-11. Naile (2-for-6), Starr (2-for-5, one RBI), Nick Johnson (2-
for-3) and McClendon (2-for-5, two RBIs) were the other multiple hitters for Charleston.
Paul Johnson and Billy Butler contributed single hits apiece. Gilooly scored a team-high three runs while Nick Johnson and Smith scored twice.
Tyler Wrinkle led Stoutland with three hits and three RBIs. Kyle, Adam Smith and Seth Burns added two hits apiece.
Each team committed five errors.
Charleston faced the loser of the Twin Rivers/Advance game on Saturday at 9 a.m., while Stoutland met the winner of that contest at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night.