TERRE HAUTE —
Another day, another comeback in the Prospect League for the Terre Haute Rex.
Conor Fisk got drilled for six hits and four runs in the third inning but the Rex climbed back in the game, eventually tying it at 4-4 in the seventh when Ronnie Mitchell doubled and scored on a single by Jacob Hayes.
That set up heroics by Stephen Bruno in the bottom of the ninth. After Hayes reached on an infield single and Springfield manager Danny Cox was ejected after arguing the call, Bruno came to the plate.
Hayes stole second on an 0-2 count, but Bruno battled against Springfield pitcher Chris Hoffman.
Then the University of Virginia standout hit a towering blast over the left-field wall for a game-winning two-run homer. The Rex won 6-4.
“He was fighting me. He’s got some good stuff, and I was just trying to see the ball up,” Bruno said. “I was trying not to chase a ball. Luckily, I got a pitch up that I could drive.”
The victory sets up a win-and-in scenario for the Rex today against Danville at Bob Warn Field. The Rex can clinch a playoff spot by either claiming the second-half West Division title or by having the second-best overall record in the division if the Quincy Gems win the second-half title.
The Rex could also take the playoff berth with a loss if Springfield loses to Hannibal tonight.
Fisk gave up a triple to left-center field, a triple to right-center field and a double to the wall in straightaway center in the third inning.
“I hadn’t been hit like that all year,” the Rex strikeout leader said. “It kind of got to me a bit. I just refocused and settled down.”
Fisk only allowed one hit, a harmless single in the eighth, the rest of the game. He struck out seven and walked one. The Rex pitcher had not allowed a triple all season before Friday night.
His experience this summer against quality competition has helped him raise the level of his game.
“It definitely comes with experience, especially when you get to this level,” Fisk said. “Every guy in the lineup can hit you. When they start tagging you like that, it kind of gets to you. You’ve got to be able to re-center and refocus and come back with your best stuff.”
Fisk has been impressed by the resilience of the Rex, who have overcome numerous injuries to both the lineup and the pitching staff to stay in the playoff hunt. Bruno’s sixth home run of the season — in just 63 at-bats — to capped the biggest win of the season so far.
“That was huge. That was impressive,” Fisk said. “Going down four early in a game, you definitely have time to come back. We battled our way back. We just have a lot of talent up and down the lineup, even on the bench. A guy will get hurt and a guy will come in and be hot right away. We just have a lot of competitors.”
The contributions came from up and down the lineup Friday.
Designated hitter Mike Schroeder, a recent addition to the roster, provided a two-run single in the fourth to start the scoring for the Rex.
Chris Bossenbery tossed a scoreless ninth inning in his league-high 29th appearance out of the bullpen. He allowed a leadoff double to Ryan McMillin but escaped the jam when a Jeremy Shay bunt came right back to the mound. Bossenbery’s throw to third was low, but Koby Kraemer dug it out of the turf and barely got the tag down in time to nail the go-ahead runner.
Following the home run by Bruno that ended the game, Springfield’s pitcher continued to express his frustration at the base umpire, who was walking toward the exit in right field. The Springfield dugout continued to express that frustration toward Rex players and coaches after the teams shook hands.
Filling in for suspended manager Brian Dorsett, Rex coach Darrin Barton tried to keep the peace. He agreed the Rex were on the fortunate end of the call on Hayes’ infield single, but that’s baseball.
“There’s been a lot of calls go back and forth all summer long. You can’t just pick one call to make your whole summer. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t,” Barton said.
Bruno, who missed almost all of the spring with top-ranked Virginia due to injury, is just enjoying the chance to compete.
“It’s not just a summer league,” Bruno said. “It’s a place for players to bond. We’ve got a great team, a lot of players are stepping up.”