If you're one of those people who think baseball is a boring game, you must have missed MCC hosting NIACC on Wednesday, April 24.
Wednesday featured everything that makes baseball exciting… hard throwing pitchers, bullpen issues, great plays in the field, costly errors, and hitting… a lot of hitting.
Ryan Carter showed how quickly a rough day of baseball can turn into a great day of baseball as the sophomore from Ennis, TX had himself a day at the plate, but more about that later.
The pitching matchup to start the day was Evan Reifert for the Trojans and Blake Lindsey for the Tigers. Scouts lined the backstop to watch Reifert pitch and Reifert showed why in the first inning when he retired the first three batters of the game consecutively. He also got out of a second inning jam to hold the Tigers scoreless in the first two innings.
Lindsey didn't fare as well for the Tigers as he walked the first batter of the game. Anthony Catalano then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. The Trojan runner eventually scored on a fielder's choice by Will Sturek. But the Tigers escaped the inning with just the one run scored.
NIACC got to Lindsey again in the second inning though. After a popup to short for the first out of the inning, Gae Eckstaine doubled. Jacob Hansen followed him up with a two-run dinger to left field to put the Trojans ahead 3-0. Ross Cochran then singled before Anthony Catalano reached on an error to put runners on first and second. Ben Fitzgerald then flew out to right for the second out of the inning. Fox Leum then made the Tigers pay for their error as he lifted a 1-0 pitch to right-center field for a three run homerun to extend the lead to 6-0.
That was the end of the day for Lindsey as he was relieved by Michael Ver Lee. Ver Lee struck out the second batter he faced to end the top of the second.
Ver Lee went on to have arguably his best outing of the year as he kept the home team in the game. Ver Lee worked a clean third inning, held the Trojans scoreless in the fourth, and sent the NIACC batter back to the dugout 1-2-3 in the fifth.
With Ver Lee holding the Trojans at bay, the Tigers started to chip away at the early 6-0 deficit. Candido Encarnacion put the Tigers on the board with a solo shot to center in the third inning. After a scoreless fourth, Reifert lost control in the fifth and was pulled from the game.
The bottom of the fifth started with Tom Josten earning a walk. Encarnacion then flew out to left for the first out of the inning. After a wild pitch allowed Josten to reach second, Ryan Carter also walked. That was the end of the day for Reifert as the Trojans turned to the bullpen. In hindsight, that may have been a mistake.
After Tyson Tucker induced a flyout by Tyler Coleman for the second out of the frame, Eli Berggeron recorded an RBI single to move the score to 6-2. The next batter, Kole Jurgen also singled and scored Carter from third and the lead was down to three. Nick Hagen struck out swinging to end the fifth, but the Tigers were within three runs and had gotten into the bullpen of the Trojans.
With Ver Lee still pitching to start off the sixth, Ross Cochran took an 0-2 pitch of his leadoff at bat to dead center field for a double. Ver Lee battled back to strike out the next two batters. But then walked Leum and Sturek. The consecutive walks ended the day for Ver Lee and he was replaced by Raymond Collazo.
Collazo came in and retired the first batter he faced, but not before a passed ball allowed Cochran to score from third. Heading to the bottom of the sixth, the Trojans led 7-3.
The Tides continued to turn in the sixth as Bryce Vineyard got the inning started with by drawing a walk with one out. Tucker then walked Julio Sanchez, who had entered for Josten, and Encarnacion to load the bases up with one out. Tucker was then pulled in favor of Chase Rath.
Rath had a rough "welcome to the game" from Ryan Carter. Carter took the first pitch from Rath deep to left-center field for a grand slam to tie the game at 7-7.
Tyler Coleman then flew out to center field for the second out of the inning. But Eli Berggeron gave the Tigers the lead with a solo shot on the next pitch. With the Tigers now leading 8-7, Kole Jurgens reached base on a throwing error by the third baseman, but was caught trying to advance to second as the catcher was backing up the play and threw Jurgens out before he could reach scoring position.
The lead was short lived though as Cochran took a 2-1 offering deep to left field for a two-run shot in the top of the seventh to put NIACC back ahead 9-8.
With the lead, the visitors again went to the bullpen. This time, it was Brodie Paulson who took the bump. Paulson was impressive in the seventh as he sat the Tigers down in order and struck out two while throwing just two balls.
With the Trojans up 9-8 heading to the eighth, Collazo remained on the mound for the Tigers. The big righty from Puerto Rico struck out Ben Fitzgerald to start the top of the eighth before walking Fox Leum on four pitches. The four pitch walk was the end of the day for Collazo and the Tigers turned to Jacob Medcalf.
Medcalf struck out the first batter he faced looking. But the freshman from Franklin, TX hit a speedbump with the next two batters as he walked Shane Kelleher and gave up a single to Carson Parker to score Leum, a run attributed to Collazo. Medcalf battled back to strikeout Gabe Eckstaine looking to end the threat.
Now down 10-8 the Tigers were down to their final six outs, but wouldn't need them all. Julio Sanchez started the home half of the inning with a single up the middle and was moved to second on a Candido Encarnacion single. That brought Ryan Carter back to the plate. Carter, who had hit a grand slam to tie the game in his last at bat, took a 2-1 pitch to left-center field for a three run shot to put the Tigers back ahead 11-10.
Paulson hit the next batter he faced, Tyler Coleman, and was pulled from the game.
Michael Sturek entered the game for NIACC and immediately struck out Berggeron and Jurgens before getting Hagen to ground out 4-3 to end the inning. But the Carter blast had the Tigers back on top 11-10 and needing just three more outs to claim the victory in this crazy game.
Medcalf made it interesting, but the pitcher and the Tiger defense did just that as Medcalf caught Leum looking for the third out of the inning with a runner on second.