(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Riding an 11-game win streak into Saturday's Class 2, District 2 opening round match-up against East Prairie, the Bloomfield Wildcats showed that last Wednesday's 3-2 regular season win over the Eagles was no fluke.
Getting seven shutout innings from ace Paul Fox, the Wildcats were able to grab a pair of early runs and held on for a 2-0 win.
"An unbelievable job," Bloomfield coach Jason Karnes said of Fox's performance. "He kept us in it. We scored two runs early and we kept telling the boys, 'two (runs) is not enough, two is not enough. We need more than that.' But as good as he was two was just barely enough for us."
Holding a two-run lead off a two-run rally in the second, the Wildcats faced their greatest challenge of the afternoon in the sixth and seventh innings as East Prairie got runners on early in both frames and looked to even things up.
Starting things off in the bottom of the sixth, Eagle's clean up hitter and starting pitcher Connor Scott, hit a triple to deep centerfield to sit at third with no outs.
Unfortunately for East Prairie, after a fly-out to right field, Connor Scott was tagged out at the plate trying to score on a ball down the third base line.
Getting a grounder to short for the third out, the Wildcats were able to leave the inning unscathed.
Down to their final three outs in the seventh, the Eagles once again went to work, this time starting with the bottom of their order.
Coming up after the No. 8 hitter struck out, Shawn King got things going with a line drive single to right centerfield before a walk to lead-off hitter Nathan Maynard left runners on first and second with one outs.
A wild pitch in the next at bat allowed both runners to advance to third and second to leave the tying run in scoring position.
Able to hold on to his composure, however, Fox snag a grounder to his right on the next at bat, checking on the runner at third before firing to first for the second out.
Needing only one final out, Fox went on to strikeout East Prairie's No. 3 hitter to advance Bloomfield to the tournament semifinals.
"I was getting a little tired," Fox said of the last inning. "I was worn out and just wanted to get the win really bad so I just came out there throwing trying to locate everything.
"I was having a little problem with location, but I finally got it down enough to get us the win."
In picking up the win, Fox finished the game allowing four hits and three walks while striking out eight.
"He located he fastball pretty well today, I thought," Karnes said. "He located everything well. There was a couple of batters where he got really good outs.
"I know he got one strikeout, I don't know which kid it was, but he threw an inside fastball and it was right there. It was perfect."
On offense, the Wildcats collected eight hits with Austin Williamson leading way with two singles. The team's only extra base hit came when centerfielder, Travis Phillips, doubled to left in the fifth.
As for the Eagles, King had a team-high two hits, both singles, while reaching base in all three at-bats. Also reaching in all three of his trips to the plate, Connor Scott had a triple and two walks.
"This time of year your bats can't go silent," East Prairie coach Gary Scott said of the loss. "You have to hit the baseball and we didn't hit it. That's what it came down too.
"Their pitcher kept us off balance pretty much the whole game. We couldn't stay back on a ball and drive it. We had a few opportunities to push a run across and just had a couple of bad breaks and couldn't do it."
Bloomfield will now face top-seeded Clearwater Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Hillhouse Park in Charleston.
East Prairie finished their season with an 8-10 record.
Bloomfield 020 000 0 - 2
East Prairie 000 000 0 - 0
WP -- Paul Fox. LP -- Connor Scott. 2B -- (B) Travis Phillips. 3B -- (EP) Connor Scott.