(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Just like any other batter at the plate, Scott Central first baseman Nathan Ballard was looking for a hit.
He was sitting way ahead with a 3-0 count and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning with a chance to break the 2-2 tie against the Charleston Bluejays and win the game.
He's just glad he got the job done.
"I was hoping for a good ball to get a single or something to drive in the run," Ballard said. "But, fortunately, I got walked."
Ballard's free pass allowed Bryan Freed to touch home for the winning run as the Braves defeated Charleston 3-2, capping one of their biggest wins in school history on Wednesday afternoon.
"If they play the way we can play, we can stay in the game with a lot of people," Scott Central's first-year head coach Matt Limbaugh said. "Charleston is a heck of a team. They're a great team. They just happened to catch us on a good day."
The walk-off walk was set up with a walk to Bryan Freed, a single to left from Josh Boese and another single by Ben Freed. It was the eighth inning of work for Charleston's Ethan Browning, who was handed the loss.
Ben Freed threw seven innings for the Braves and was tagged for the two runs, one earned, and struck out seven. He kept the Bluejays at bay with five hits by simply keeping the ball down.
Even he was surprised at how well he threw the ball.
"Honestly, I didn't think I was going to give the performance that I did," Ben Freed said. "I just kept the ball low like coach said and let my defense play for me."
Ben Freed got out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the fourth inning while his team held a slim 1-0 lead at the time. A little extra velocity on his fastball seemed to make the biggest difference against the Bluejay hitters.
"Ben threw an excellent game," Limbaugh added. "He kept the ball low and had a lot of zip on his fastball. I've never seen zip on his fastball.
"He finally had a good five day rest on his arm and you could really tell."
With the momentum shifted to their side, Scott Central made it 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth when a single by Tyler Masters squeaked through the right side of the infield that scored Ballard from second.
Charleston came right back, however, with two runs in the fifth.
Charleston's James Naile advanced to third after a single to right field got under the glove of Blake Pobst. Shane Scott scored all the way from first on the error while Naile came home shortly after on a single by Browning that tied the game at two runs apiece.
Heading into the eighth innings with a 2-2 tie, Scott Central sent Boese to the mound to keep the Bluejays at just two runs.
"Boese's one of our better one's," said Ballard. "He seems to always come through in the clutch and help us through everything."
A 1-2-3 inning followed by Ballard's RBI walk that ended it, gave Boese and the revamped Braves their fifth win of the season.
"When we beat Chaffee we thought that was big," Ben Freed said. "But, it doesn't compare to this. Charleston has always been a rivalry for us; basketball, baseball, softball, everything."
Charleston was held to five hits against Ben Freed and Boese on the mound.
"When you come out and don't swing the bats, that's what happens," Charleston assistant coach Ryan Ford said. "(Scott Central) did a good job and they deserve to win."
Since being named head coach of the Braves at the beginning of the season, Limbaugh has guided Scott Central to one of their best starts in recent memory. Freed thinks that Limbaugh, a graduate of Sikeston High School, has had the biggest impact on the Braves' dramatic turnaround.
"For one, we've got a great coach," Ben Freed said. "Two, we come out during practice and work our butt off.
"He's just like one of us. We joke around with him and he jokes with us. But, when it comes down to practice it's turned on."
The Braves (5-3) hope to continue their winning ways today at Meadow Heights while Charleston (8-5) wants to break their recent two-game skid on Saturday when they host Cuba.
Charleston 000 020 00 -- 2
SCC 100 100 01 -- 3
WP -- Josh Boese. LP -- Ethan Browning. Multiple hitters -- Shane Scott (C) 2-4, James Naile (C) 2-4, Nathan Holland (S) 2-4, Boese 2-4, Ben Freed (S) 3-4. 2B -- Scott, Trey Johnson (S).