News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Terre Haute Rex

July 2, 2011

BULLPEN SPARKLES

Rex defeat Paints 1-0 in front of season-best crowd

TERRE HAUTE — A stolen base by Joe Meggs was the game’s biggest offensive play — “Who would’ve thought?” he said afterward — and the Terre Haute bullpen continued to sparkle Friday night at Bob Warn Field as the Rex defeated the Chillicothe Paints 1-0 in Prospect League baseball.

Fireworks after the game may have contributed to a season-best crowd of 1,395 — and there are more fireworks after Sunday’s home game, by the way — but the play of the Rex, who have won 14 of their last 18 games, may be bringing out fans too.

On Friday, for example, the home team came out on top despite a mid-game injury to its starting pitcher and a stellar effort on the mound by Keenan White of Chillicothe.

“That guy had us off-balance,” said Rex manager Brian Dorsett, who praised White before he talked about his own team. “I’ve never seen so many balls hit off the end of the bat.”

White, a big lefthander from Wooster, didn’t allow a hit that left the infield after the first inning — but by that time it was too late.

With one out in the bottom of the first, Meggs singled to right, then got himself in scoring position with a delayed steal. Koby Kraemer followed with a run-scoring single, and that was it for the scoring.

It was the fourth steal of the season for Meggs, even though “blazing speed” might not be listed on his scouting report.

“It’s kind of something we’ve been talking about,” the Terre Haute North graduate said after the game when asked about the delayed steal. “At the right time, it can catch the defense napping.”

“It was big,” Dorsett agreed. “We noticed their [catcher] was dropping to his knees … and Joe Meggs executes it so well. He got down there and Koby got the big RBI.”

With the Rex limited to just three infield hits the rest of the way — and White picked two of those off first base — the remainder of the game was a continuation of a frustrating stretch for the Paints, who are not quite the same offensive team as the Chlllicothe team that dominated its division a year ago.

Resting a couple of regulars who came in to pinch hit later in the game, the visitors didn’t have a starting offensive player with a batting average higher than the .196 of leadoff man Brian Suerdick — and Suerdick was leadoff man because the Paints drew Friday’s batting order out of a hat. The shutout extended their string of scoreless innings to 25.

They put runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings and stranded 10 runners for the game, yet the situation was still dicey when Rex starter Christian Slaznik had to come out of the game in the top of the fifth inning.

Two hits — one of them one of the end-of-the-bat ones that Dorsett mentioned — sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt had Chillicothe runners at first and third with one out, but Slaznik struck out Mitchell Broughton for the second out. Then, with a 1-and-1 count on Bobby Donato, he had to come out of the game holding his shoulder.

“He cramped in his hand a little bit early, and we felt he was going too fast,” Dorsett said after the game. “We told him to take more time between pitches … but then he had the same thing in the back of his shoulder.

“It was humid, so maybe he just didn’t get enough fluids,” the manager continued. “We don’t think it’s anything structural at all.”

Darrin Vestring came out of the bullpen to retire Donato, then pitched a scoreless sixth inning. After he walked the leadoff batter in the seventh, setup man Chris Bossenbery came in to finish that inning — with the help of the second double play he’s started in as many appearances — and the eighth. Closer Nick Cunningham did his job in the ninth.

“I think we’ve been good all year,” said Bossenbery, an unofficial and self-appointed bullpen spokesman. “Everybody is starting to know their roles, and we get a lot of outs. Nobody is trying to do too much.

Asked about his double-play streak, Bossenbery added, “I’ve just been trying to throw a lot of balls low in the zone, get out of innings quick as possible … [Cunningham] just whips it up there pretty good. He goes right at it with all he’s got.”

“The bullpen’s been great,” Meggs agreed. “If we get five or six innings out of our starter and have the lead, everybody feels pretty confident.”

“It was big for Vestring, to see him come in like that,” Dorsett said. “And after he walked that guy in the seventh … Boss hadn’t pitched in three days, so it was a good chance for him to set it up for Cunningham.”

The Rex now have two straight games against the Dubois County Bombers to close out the first half of the season — tonight at Huntingburg and a 7:05 p.m. game Sunday at home.

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