(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHAFFEE -- After sweeping their only two meetings during the regular season by a combined score of 23-7, the Charleston Fighting Squirrels found themselves in the unusual position of mounting a comeback when facing New Madrid County.
Trailing in the final innings of the opening game of the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth State Tournament to New Madrid County, the Squirrels were forced to rely on a three-run sixth inning rally to squeak by with a 4-3 win.
"A lot of people will say you beat them 10-0 or whatever during the regular season," Charleston coach Michael Minner said of New Madrid County, "but I knew coming in that when all their kids were here and it's crunch time that they're going to be a different ball club.
"They were ready to play today and their lefty (Jansen Darst) kept them in the ball game."
Coming in to the top of the fourth in a scoreless game New Madrid County was able to strike first as they loaded the bases to start the inning. With one out in the frame, Owen Flowers scored the go-ahead run on a bunt back to the pitcher before leadoff hitter Chris Pavy gave his team a 2-0 lead on a sacrifice fly to left field.
Though Charleston closed back to within one in the bottom of the frame after Seth Childers scored on a wild pitch, the Squirrels entered the sixth still trailing 2-1 and six outs from being sent to the loser's bracket.
Starting a three-run rally, however, Marshall Stallings opened the frame with a ball hit back to the fence to left for a stand up double. Trading places with Stallings, Childers hit a shot over the center fielder's head to score their first run of inning.
"I was just looking for a pitch, something over the heart of the plate to drive," Childers said. "Just trying to, not necessarily score (Stallings), but to move him over to third.
"He just gave me the pitch I was looking for and I put a good swing on it."
After a fly-out left Charleston with one out, cleanup hitter Nathan Rodgers pushed across the go ahead run, hitting a ball up the first base side that took a high hop in the infield before sailing into the outfield.
"I thought the first baseman was going to get to it," Rodgers said, "But I pushed it through. He's a big guy and it bounced over him so it squeezed threw and scored (Childers)."
"It pumped me up, I'll tell you that much."
A short while later, Jonathan Boone scored what turned out to be a crucial insurance run when he sent a liner to left, scoring Rodgers from third to put the Squirrels up 4-2.
Down to their final three outs, New Madrid County was able to open up the seventh putting runners on first and third before a fielder's choice scored Mason Kellams from third.
In the seventh, New Madrid County was able to close to within a run when Mason Kellams scored on a fielder's choice to short.
But with with the tying run on first and one out, Charleston's closer, Boone, got New Madrid County to pop out to the second baseman before grounding out back to the pitcher's mound to end the game.
"That's probably the best ball game we played all year," New Madrid County coach Kevin Lyons said. "We played really good defense and had some hits. We just couldn't put enough together to do what was needed."
Picking up the win, Bobby Clark went six full innings for the Squirrels giving up three runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out three.
"It was a little hot out there, but I felt alright," Clark said. "I didn't throw my breaking ball real well at first. I threw it a couple of times later in the game for strikes in situations I needed it, but basically I threw fastballs."
Coming in after Clark gave up an initial single to start the seventh, Boone picked up the save retiring the final three batters in order.
For New Madrid County, Darst took the loss. He went five frames giving up three runs on six hits and a walk while striking out three before being pulled after giving up back-to-back hits to start the sixth.
"Darst has been excellent all year long," Lyons said. "We just didn't have enough ball games to get him the work that he needed to get him stretched out. This (summer) is the first that he's thrown all year. He didn't throw any high school ball at all. He's going to be a good one."
At the plate Kellams. Darst and Hunter Ivie led New Madrid County with two hits each. On the other side, Childers, Boone and Ethan Browning all had two hits for the Squirrels.
Sliding to the loser's bracket, New Madrid County will now await the outcome of today's Chaffee/Jackson game. They will play the loser of that contest Saturday at 11 a.m. with their season now on the line.
With Thursday's win Charleston advances to play Missouri Valley in the winner's bracket today at 5 p.m.
"It's nice to stay in the winner's bracket," Minner said. "We just want to continue to do things the way we did today defensively and hopefully the bats come out a little sooner."
New Madrid 000 200 1 - 3 8 0
Charleston 000 103 x - 4 9 1
WP -- Bobby Clark. LP -- Jansen Darst. SV -- Jonathon Boone. 2B -- (C) Marshall Stallings, Seth Childers, Nathan Rodgers.