(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
DEXTER -- Despite taking an early lead on a three-run home run from Chase Young in the bottom of the first on Wednesday, the Dexter Bearcats couldn't find enough offense late to stay on top of the Poplar Bluff Mules.
After watching the Mules rally for runs in both the fifth and sixth frames to take the lead, the Bearcats fell 6-5.
"You have to give credit to Poplar Bluff," Dexter head coach Brian Becker said. "They swung the bats well. I thought we swung them well early and then after that their left hander came in and did a good job against us."
Opening the home half of the first inning, leadoff hitter Daniel Fitts drew a walk before a single by Brad Potts left runners on first and third.
Dexter proceeded to jump on top when Young hit a shot that bounced off of and over the fence in right center field give the Bearcats a 3-0 advantage.
After a single by Charlie Kayser in the second brought Poplar Bluff back to within a run before another two-run rally in the fourth gave the Mules their first lead of the game.
Alex Lewis and Jeff Rowland started off the inning with a walks and single respectively before Kayser's second hit of the contest put his team on top.
Kayser sent a shot back to the mound that ricocheted off the pitcher's glove before getting by the diving second baseman for a single.
Down but not out, the Dexter Bearcats responded in the bottom of the frame with their second long ball of the contest.
Following a Josh Overall single to start the inning, Fitts hit two-out shot that bounced off the left field foul pole for a home run as Dexter went back up 5-4.
"It was a game of inches all day long," Becker said. "Chase hits one over the fence by an inch and Daniel hit one over the fence by an inch fair. On their end they had a base hit off of (Jordan) Miller's glove there that brought in two runs for them."
Unfortunately for the Bearcats, while Fitts' two-run shot proved to be the end of their offensive outburst, the Mules had a few runs left in them.
Following a leadoff double by Stuckenshneider to start the fifth Poplar Bluff moved the tying run to third on a subsequent bunt. For a minute it looked like Dexter might catch a break when they caught the runner at third trying to score on a fielder's choice for the second out.
Taking advantage of a passed ball at the plate, however, the Mules runner at second, Drew Dowd, took off for third base.
Though it looked like the Bearcats might have a play, a missed throw at third let the ball sail into the outfield and the tying run to score.
"We've been talking about balls in the dirt and taking advantage of that if we can," Poplar Bluff coach Stan Bullington said. "He broke (for third) and it's his call on that. He has to be able to read it and go from second to third.
"Then the throw was high and got away from the third baseman and we were able to get up and go (home)."
Back up in the sixth, the Mules scored what became the game-winning run after Rowland led off the frame with a single before his pinch runner was moved over to second on a Wes Pyles bunt.
Batting seventh in the lineup, Logan Faith scored the runner from second with a line drive to left field to put Poplar Bluff up by the 6-5 final.
"Logan hit a rocket down there into the left field corner," Bullinton said. "He's a kid that's typically higher in the batting order, but has been having a little bit of a rough time. For him to get that hit, I think that's a big lift for the team and for him."
With both teams going to relief pitchers in the later innings, it was Stuckenschneider who picked up the in.Coming in with runners on first and second and one out in the fifth, Stuckenschneider let up an initial hit to load the bases before a strikeout and ground out to leave the frame unscathed.
"We just couldn't get the big hit there," Becker said. "We had opportunities today, we just couldn't get them in. Bluff is a good ball club and when you get runners in scoring position you have to find a way to get them in."
Stuckenshneider went on to pitch 2 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out three.
"From this side of the diamond that was a big jam," Bullington said of the Stuckenschneider's fifth inning heroics. "He's just a freshman, but he's been clutch for us all year long coming in for the later innings."
With the loss Dexter falls to 10-4 while the Mules move to 8-4.
Poplar Bluff 020 211 0 - 6 8 1
Dexter 300 200 0 - 5 8 2
WP -- Brandon Stuckenschneider. LP -- Alex Cliff. Multiple hitters: (P) Jeff Rowland 2-3, Charlie Kayser 2-3; (D) Alex Cliff 2-4, Josh Overall 2-4. 2B -- (P) Brandon Stuckenschneider. HR -- (D) Daniel Fitts, Chase Young.