Fifteen-run outburst lifts Fighting Squirrels to win over Tropics
Alex Wallner/Standard Democrat
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — What pitching was for the Fighting Squirrels on Thursday night, hitting was for them on Friday afternoon in the second day of the COVID-19 Baseball Showcase.
Charleston scored in every inning they played, leading to a 15-4 victory over the Tropics in four innings, at Capaha Park, in Cape Girardeau.
It was a quick start for the hosts after Justin Moses led the game off by getting hit by a pitch.
Then after a force out at second base and a line out to third, Hunter Hiett drove in his third run of the tournament, on a sharp single into left field, scoring Brayden Eftink — who stole second base during the plate appearance.
Anthony Klein also added support, with a single of his own, that doubled the lead after Hiett stole second base.
How would the Tropics respond after the Fighting Squirrels drew first blood?
The answer would be taking a brief lead.
Ty Johnson led off the bottom half of the first by drawing a walk and then advanced into scoring position after an errant throw by the catcher on a pickoff play and a sacrifice bunt that allowed the Oran junior to end up at third.
Brennan Fowler followed up that sequence with an RBI base hit to make it a one-run game, 2-1.
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Southeast would then tie the game two batters later, after Parker Jeffries doubled, to score Fowler from first.
Alec Brown — who started on the mound for the Tropics — then drew a walk and later advanced into scoring position after a wild pitch. That same pitch would give the Tropics a brief 3-2 lead when the ball scurried away from Charleston’s catcher, and Jeffries followed with a head-first slide, making the score.
That lead was short-lived, as Charleston responded with a five-run and a seven-run inning, respectively.
In the second, Ben Bledsoe started the inning with a single, while Gordon Todd was hit by a pitch to put two runners on and one out.
Alex Wallner/Standard Democrat
A passed ball would then allow both runners to reach scoring position, and Michael White — the starting pitcher for Charleston — did the rest, with a two-RBI single that gave the Squirrels the lead right back.
From that point, they didn’t look back.
After making a heads-up play, and advancing to second base on the throw home, White would score after an error on the Tropics’ first baseman, to push the lead to two runs, at 5-3.
With only one out in the frame, the Fighting Squirrels were still out for more damage.
They got just that, after Eftink unloaded on a two-run round-tripper that went into right field, to make it a 7-3 game — the final scoring of the inning.
“He hammered it,” Charleston head coach Michael Minner said. “He center-punched it, and that’s one of those where you see a ball like that hit, and you know that he got all of it. That’s fun to watch.”
Southeast tried to mount a comeback in the bottom half of the inning, as the Tropics loaded the bases. However, they failed to capitalize after a strikeout and fly out ended the threat.
A potent lineup for the Fighting Squirrels would flex their muscles once again, in the top half of the third, as they scored seven runs to take a 14-3 lead.
After loading the bases on three-straight singles, Moses drove in another run for Charleston, after a base hit plated Carter Heuring.
Then, a bases-loaded walk to Eftink scored the ninth run of the contest, and an error on the Tropics’ right fielder, after he laid out and dropped the fly ball attempt, made it a seven-run game, at 10-3.
Ajay Sager also joined the barrage of offense as he unloaded the bases on a triple to make it 13-3.
“We’ve got a solid lineup,” Minner said. “There are no holes in it, and so, we’re going to continue to get better. We’re going to keep working, and today I thought we did a good job of hitting fastballs in fastball counts, and we looked to take good cuts. So, today was much better than yesterday. We’re just not going to get too high, not too low. This is day two of the season, but we looked good. There’s something to work with there, and we’re excited to be playing baseball.
“We get another opportunity tomorrow to come out and play more baseball. We’re a second day closer to normalcy, so that’s important for us.”
It was a struggle for the Tropics to battle back, and head coach Dustin Schwartz knew that when you make mistakes, it can bite you in the end.
“That’s not a lineup you can make five errors against and that’s what we did today,” Schwartz said. “When you give a team like Charleston five extra outs, they’re going to hurt you, and they’re going to hit you hard, and that’s what they did to us today.”