TERRE HAUTE —
If you haven’t been to a Terre Haute Rex game yet this season, tonight might be the time to go.
The Rex have a second straight home game against the Dubois County Bombers, a potential Prospect League West Division playoff preview — and a battle between maybe the division’s two biggest rivals.
The Rex hung on to beat the Bombers 5-4 Thursday night with 1,325 in attendance, using a five-run inning and a stellar relief effort by Clay Manering to win a game that was scoreless after both teams aces were roughed up in the first four frames.
Seven stolen bases by the visitors — one of which seemed to get under the skin of Terre Haute pitcher Tommy Strunc — were offset by four extra-base hits in the bottom of the third by the Rex.
Strunc escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the top of the first with two strikeouts, but the Bombers scored on a double steal in the second inning and got a hit, a steal and another hit for a 2-0 lead in the top of the third.
With two out in the bottom of that frame, however, the home team’s bats came alive — temporarily — against Dubois County workhorse Ty Simpson.
Spencer Mahoney, who had led off the inning with a walk, was at second base when Patrick Chandler launched a no-doubt-about-it line drive over the right-field fence. A steal and stolen base by Kyle Kempf — whose highlight-reel diving catch against leadoff batter Landon Curry loomed huge later in the first — preceded successive run-scoring doubles by Michael Schroeder, Brian Norwood and Casey McCurdy.
The Bombers showed they weren’t slowing down with a three-run deficit, however, and were quickly back in the game in the fourth.
A one-out single by Austin Nyman led to a steal and throwing error that put him at third. Curry walked and Bo Ausmus got a bunt single the Rex watched — bunt-defense practice is at 4 p.m. today, manager Brian Dorsett told his team after the game — to cut the lead to 5-3, but Curry was thrown out at third on the front end of a double steal.
On the throw back to Strunc on the mound, however, Ausmus broke for third and not only got there but scored on Strunc’s error. The Rex pitcher hit one batter and nearly another as the Bombers loaded the bases, but a popup ended the inning.
“Ugly game,” said Dorsett, whose team finished the game with five errors — four on steal attempts. “Tommy [who started the Prospect League all-star game] has been lights-out all year, but sometimes he rushes himself.
“He’s got to work on his slide step and his throw-over [to keep running games in check],” the Rex manager continued. “This was a great reminder for him.”
Strunc had reached 95 pitches by this point, so Clay Manering came on in relief in the top of the fifth, and spun four excellent innings — the only potential threat wiped out by a Rex double play in the top of the sixth after a leadoff double by Curry.
Edmund Cheatham started that twin killing and added a double on sheer hustle in the bottom of the seventh, but the Rex had no other offense against Simpson — who lasted seven innings — or reliever Justin Kruse. After Manering’s game-winning job, Nick Blount got two strikeouts in a quick ninth-inning save, his 11th of the summer.
“Thank God we had the one big inning,” Dorsett said afterward.
Although the game settled down after near-fireworks in the top of the fourth, there’s no doubt these two teams bring a little extra spark when they play each other.
“They’re a good club,” Dorsett said of the Bombers. “They come at you every time ... [tonight] will be the last time we see them — until the playoffs.”
Rex 5, Bombers 4
DC ab r h bi TH Rex ab r h bi
Curry lf 4 0 1 0 Cheatham 2b 3 0 1 0
Ausmus 2b 3 1 1 1 Chandler rf 4 1 1 2
Rouleau ss 4 1 2 0 Kempf cf 3 1 0 0
Zahn 1b 5 0 1 0 Schroeder 1b 4 1 2 1
Daily 3b 3 0 1 1 Norwood c 4 1 1 1
Tavares dh 4 0 0 0 McCurdy lf 4 0 1 1
Windler rf 3 0 0 0 Eberle 3b 3 0 0 0
Conner c 3 1 0 0 Mahoney ss 2 1 0 0
Nyman cf 4 1 2 0 Hayes dh 2 0 0 0
Totals 33 4 8 2 Totals 29 5 6 5
Dubois County Bombers 011 200 000 — 4
Terre Haute Rex 005 000 000 — 5
E — Norwood 3, Strunc, Schroeder. DP — THR 1. LOB — DCB 10, THR 4. 2B — Schroeder, Norwood, McCurdy, Curry, Cheatham. HR — Chandler. SB — Nyman 2, Conner, Rouleau 2, Daily, Kempf, Ausmus, Cheatham. CS — Curry 2. SH — Hayes.
IP H R ER W K
Dubois County Bombers
Simpson (L) 7 6 5 5 3 6
Kruse 1 0 0 0 0 0
Terre Haute Rex
Strunc 4 7 4 4 4 6
Manering (W) 4 1 0 0 2 5
Blount (S) 1 0 0 0 0 2
WP — Simpson, Strunc. HBP — by Strunc (Rouleau), by Strunc (Daily). T — 2:27.
Next — The Terre Haute Rex (15-6) and Dubois County Bombers (9-12) play again at 7:05 p.m. today at Bob Warn Field.