Senior Babe Ruth
CHARLESTON -- A second straight gut-wrenching defeat eliminated the Charleston Fighting Squirrels from the Senior Babe Ruth State Tournament.
Cape Girardeau's Blake Gaddis blasted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 4-3 win over host Charleston at Hillhouse Park on Friday.
"You don't feel so bad when you're in a legit park," said Charleston coach Michael Minner, of Gaddis' game-winning shot. "He hit it a ton."
The lefty-swinging Gaddis easily cleared the wall at the 371-foot mark in right-centerfield.
The Fighting Squirrels took the early lead with two unearned runs in the top of the second inning.
Tyler Branum led off with a walk, was sacrificed to second by William O'Guinn, then reached third on Colin Gilooly's single before barreling home on a misplayed groundball.
Gilooly later scored off a passed ball on a swinging third strike pitch to Paul Johnson.
Charleston starter Brink Naile had just pitched out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the bottom of the second when the skies darkened and rain began to fall.
Play was suspended for about an hour and 15 minutes as the storm blew over and the ground crew restored the field to playability.
Charleston, designated the visiting team, failed to score in the top of the third.
In the bottom of the frame, Cape evened the score at 2-2. An inning-opening error, a walk, a basehit and a hit batsman put Cape on the board and signaled the end for Naile, who never seemed comfortable after returning from the break.
A sacrifice fly by Gaddis plated the tying run before Branum, on in relief, retired the side.
Cape scored the go-ahead run in the fourth. Two consecutive singles from Abe Dirnberger and Garrett Stevens to start the inning were followed up by two fielder's choice grounders, allowing Dirnberger to cross the plate.
"We gave them three runs early and didn't play real solidly, defensively, and that usually comes back to haunt you in the end," said Minner.
The Fighting Squirrels, literally fighting for their tournament lives, tied the score at 3-3 with a run in sixth.
O'Guinn walked with one out, stole second and reached third on an infield error. Paul Bucher delivered with a sacrifice fly to left field to score O'Guinn.
Meanwhile, Branum kept the score close, shutting out Cape in the fifth and sixth innings.
Charleston, coming off a tough 2-0 loss -- both runs unearned -- the previous night, found no luck in its half of the seventh.
Johnson led off with a sharp grounder which appeared to be heading up the middle, but Cape starter and winner Brett Heischmidt got a glove on it and deflected the ball to second baseman Jacob Wengert, who completed the putout on a close play at first.
The next batter, Caleb Hatton, also stroked a well-hit grounder up the middle that looked like it had a chance to get through, but Wengert again made the play, with a diving stop to his right, a recovery to get to his feet and a perfect throw to first base. He also fielded a more routine groundball for the final out.
"Wengert makes two great plays, major league plays," said Minner.
Then Charleston saw its tournament hopes fly away with Gaddis' homer.
Again, the Fighting Squirrels failed to generate much of an offensive attack, collecting just three singles, two from Gilooly and one from Hatton.
Cape had eight hits, led by two each from Dirnberger and Garrett Stevens.
"Although we went two-and-out, I felt like we played good," said Minner, "but we just didn't hit it well enough this week. We weren't going to beat anybody the way we hit it. We couldn't get anybody on early in innings to allow ourselves a chance to play small ball."
"I'm proud of this group," Minner added. "We played hard all year and never gave up. We battled our tails off. Whenever you get to a state tournament, all of these teams can play and they were the better team today."
Earlier, Bourbon eliminated Rolla with a 5-2 win in the day's other loser's bracket game.
Central Missouri vs. Portageville and Mineral Area vs. Missouri Valley were to meet later in the evening in the two winner's bracket contests.