NEW MADRID -- In the battle of the Eagles, New Madrid County Central struck the final blow for a 9-7 comeback victory over visiting East Prairie on Thursday.
Trailing 6-1 after two innings, then 7-4 in the fifth, NMCC fought back to knot the score at 7, then plated two in the sixth for the win.
"It was a good character builder for us, but I'd like to keep it a little closer and not go through this again," said NMCC coach John Jones.
For East Prairie, it was the second blown lead resulting in losses in two days.
"We've done this the last two games," said East Prairie coach Gary Scott. "We were up 8-2 yesterday (a 9-8 loss to Bell City) and got up 6-1 today and it was the same thing. Right now, we're finding ways to lose rather than ways to win."
East Prairie (3-4) was in control early, riding a five-run second inning, sparked by Taylor White's three-run double, to the 6-1 lead. RBI singles by Jordan Mansfield and Tyler Branam accounted for the other two scores.
But NMCC closed the gap to 6-4 with three runs in the bottom of the third on only one hit, an RBI single by Clint Tanner. Two East Prairie errors plated two unearned NMCC runs.
With Dylan Harris on in relief of starter Landon Lingle, NMCC (3-2) resumed the comeback in the fifth.
Sean Thomason, on base with a leadoff single, stole second, then was sacrificed to third where he remained with two outs.
Next up, Drew Weeks hit a shot down the third-base line to score Thomason and pull NMCC within two at 7-5.
Then two scratch hits, both short in distance but huge in effect, set up the game-tying runs. The first, pinch hitter Lennies McFerren's Texas Leaguer into left field which barely ticked off the glove of the charging East Prairie outfielder, and the second, Lingle's sliding infield single.
"We were battling with two outs there and those plays kept us alive," Jones said. "He (Lingle) looked like he started sliding 15 feet from the base and I saw a big cloud of dust, but he wanted it so bad. It takes little things like that to get your club back in the game. When something like that happens, everybody wants to contribute and it's contagious."
With the bases loaded, Trey Sullenger, who had looked at a called third strike with the bases full in the second inning, gained redemption with a line double into the left centerfield gap to score the tying runs. "He (Sullenger) had watched a fastball go by him on a 2-2 count with the bases loaded," said Jones, "but he's a senior and he got another opportunity and came through to tie us up."
East Prairie threatened in the sixth, but the threat was defused by an unlikely double play. Caleb Hatton led off with a base hit, then Zach Secoy laid down a potential sacrifice bunt. Secoy was tossed out at first and Hatton, seeing no one covering third base, rounded second and headed for third.
An alert Thomason, in at shortstop due to a shoulder injury to starter Kyle Marshall in the third inning, broke for the bag and received a perfect throw from Sullenger to nail Hatton at third for the 1-3-5 double play. White's two-
out double went for naught and NMCC escaped unscathed.
"East Prairie had a little rally going and it was a great throw, right on the money, by Trey (Sullenger) from first base to Sean (Thomason) covering third and that killed the rally," Jones said.
Said Scott, "The whole play was a surprise to me. We didn't call the bunt and the kid tried to take the extra base when he saw nobody was covering and they made a good play to get there, caught it on the run and made the tag. Credit their defense. They made a good play."
NMCC plated the go-ahead runs in their half of the sixth. Back-to-back singles by Tanner and Thomason to lead off the inning preceded Matt Carter's sacrifice fly which scored Tanner with what proved to be the gamewinner.
With two outs, Weeks, a career reserve now getting playing time as a senior, singled home an insurance run to close the scoring at 9-7.
"In the sixth inning, we were able to peck around, move some folks around and Weeks came up with a big hit," said Jones. "He had an outstanding game. He's come such a long way over the past year and, for him to come in and help his team win, I know he's a proud young man and I'm proud for him."
Harris picked up the win with four innings of one-run relief. He gave up five hits, walked one and struck out three.
Branam, in relief of Secoy, took the loss.
Hatton (2-4), White (2-4 with three RBIs), Kaleb Williford (2-4 with a RBI) and Mansfield (2-3) led an 11-hit East Prairie offense.
Sullenger (2-3 with two RBIs), Tanner (2-4 with a RBI), Thomason (2-3), Weeks (2-3 with 2 RBIs) and McFerren (2-2) paced the NMCC offense, which also produced 11 hits.