(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- The Charleston Fighting Squirrels Senior Babe Ruth baseball team may not have the most glamorous record around, but that is just fine with head coach Michael Minner.
Playing a brutal schedule that includes four losses to the Missouri Bulls prospect team this season, the tough competition that the Squirrels have faced may be paying dividends.
The team showed just how potent they can be with a 10-0 run-rule victory over New Madrid County on Thursday evening at Hillhouse Park in Charleston.
Included in the Squirrels' victory was a nine-run offensive explosion in the third inning and a dominating no-hitter on the mound by pitcher Dalton Golightly.
An error by the Squirrels in the second inning is the only thing that kept it from being a perfect game.
"When you don't give up any hits, it's tough to lose," Minner said. "Just a tremendous job on the mound by Dalton. He hit spots all night, he threw his curve ball for strikes, kept the ball down and we made plays. What a tremendous job. Anytime you throw a no-hitter you've done something."
Golightly only had two strikeouts, but New Madrid County never could solve the riddle as he baffled them with a mix of curve balls and fastballs.
"We've struggled all year offensively," New Madrid coach Kevin Lyons said. "We really struggle to get all of our kids here -- a lot of them work and stuff. We just had a lot of problems getting hits, plus we're facing a really good pitcher."
Combined with Golightly's gem, the Squirrels put together an impressive offensive display in the third inning when they sent 12 batters to the plate.
Squirrel hitters sprayed the ball all over the field with Ethan Browning and Nathan Rodgers blasting back-to-back doubles to open the floodgates in the inning.
"We're starting to swing the bats really well," Minner said. "We've been spending a lot of time in the cage and playing a lot of baseball and facing good pitching and it's paying off. Up and down the lineup we're going to swing it. I'll tell you what, I wouldn't want to pitch to this crew."
New Madrid County pitcher Josh Reed appeared to be cruising along fine as he threw two scoreless innings to start the game. But things started to unravel in the third.
Bryan Freed led off the inning with a single. An error by the left fielder moved Freed up to second. Then consecutive wild pitches brought Freed in with the first run of the game.
The series of events seemed to shake Reed as he walked the next two batters on eight pitches, setting off a chain reaction of hits by the Squirrels and defensive mistakes by New Madrid County.
When the damage was done, the Squirrels had scored nine runs in the inning off six hits, three walks and four errors.
"When you get behind hitters, especially against a team like this, 2-0, 3-1, they're going to sit on the fastball," Lyons said. "You give them a couple walks to aid that, they're just going to kill you."
The Squirrels collected 10 hits in the game. Rodgers and Jonathan Boone led the team with two hits apiece.
"They were just sitting dead-red on the fastball," Lyons said. "Up to that point, (Reed) had really good control, good command. He started falling behind hitters, they were looking fastball, and he was giving it to them."
The Squirrels enforced the mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth on Danny McKinney's bloop single to right field to bring in the 10th run of the game.
New Madrid County falls to 6-9 on the season.
Charleston improved to 12-11 on the season and will compete in a tournament in Paragould, Ark., over the holiday weekend.
"We've been up and down but we've been playing good competition," Minner said. "We'll go around and play anybody. I always say, 'Michael Minner will never coach a team that is 48-2 in the summer.' We play everybody and we play to get ready for the postseason. When it comes postseason time, the nine guys that deserve to be in there will represent us and we will be ready to play."