(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- After seven close innings of play against the visiting Northwest Tennessee Blazer Tuesday afternoon, Charleston saw their chances slip away in the eighth.
Coming into the eighth frame of the nine-inning contest the Squirrels held the Blazers within striking distance trailing 4-2.
Unfortunately for the Squirrels, Northwest Tennessee combined for four runs off four hits in the frame, giving them a comfortable lead which they would ride to an 8-3 final.
"They're a tough team and we would have had to played pretty much flawless to beat them," Charleston's James Naile said. "I thought we came real close to that, but things just didn't work out."
At the end of four innings the Squirrels held a slim 2-1 advantage thanks to a line drive to right field by Naile scoring courtesy runner Sam Johnson from second to break a 1-1 tie.
That lead would be short-lived, however, as the Blazers put two more runs on the board in the top of the fifth after Charleston's starting pitcher Josh Overbey hit two of the first three batters he faced, followed by base hits bringing in the runs.
"The guys that scored during that big inning for them were the two guys that were hit by pitches back-to-back," Squirrel's coach Matt Bucher said. "Anytime you put someone on like that or through a walk they're always going to find a way to score."
Northwest Tennessee would add another in the seventh to make it 4-2 before the above mention four-run eighth.
Down six runs in the bottom of the eighth Charleston would attempt to rally, eventually loading the bases with one out.
After Zach Rowland reached on an error to fill the base paths, Jeff Long hit a shallow blooper down down the left field line, scoring Marshall Stallings who reached on a fielder's choice.
Trying to make it home from second on the same play, Cody Rice was gunned down at the plate by left fielder Zane Mathis to give the Squirrels two outs.
Up next, Northwest Tennessee's relief pitcher Jacob Clark would end the Charleston threat sending Ethan Browning down on strikes.
Though the Squirrels would get two more runners on in the bottom of the ninth, Stallings would fly out to center with two outs and runners on first and second to end the Squirrels chances at a comeback.
"I thought we played pretty well," Overbey said. "I felt like I threw the ball well, but they hit it where our people wasn't, hitting the gaps."
Overbey takes the loss for the Squirrels. He went the full nine innings, allowing all eight runs on 14 hits and one walk while striking out one.
Though Overbey had a rocky inning or two, Bucher was happy with pitcher's performance.
"He was as solid his last two innings as he was the first two innings that he threw," he said. "It seemed there that about the six or seventh inning that he ran out of gas, but he definitely got his second wind and came back and pounded the strike zone."
Charleston came away with seven hits on the afternoon with Nail and Maynard leading the team with two apiece.
Zack Patterson collected the win for the Blazers. He went seven innings giving up two runs on five hits while walking three and striking out seven.
With the team collecting 14 hits, five Northwest Tennessee players came away with multiple hits on the game with nine players contributing a hit.
Charleston next game comes when they visit Sikeston to play its Legion Post 114 squad in another nine inning contest Thursday at 6 p.m.
Northwest 010 020 140 - 8
Charleston 010 100 010 - 3
WP -- Zack Patterson. LP -- Josh Overbey. Multiple hitters -- (NWT) Tyler Roberson 2-3, Miller Lane 2-5, Keaton Gregory 2-5, Seth Hinson 2-4, Zack Patterson 2-5; (C) James Naile 2-3, Nathan Maynard 2-3. 2B -- (NWT) Matt Haynes. 3B -- (NWT) Hinson.