TERRE HAUTE —
The unbeaten Prospect League baseball start by the Terre Haute Rex ended Thursday night, but manager Brian Dorsett had already learned enough not to be discouraged.
Although the visiting Quincy Gems won 6-4 in a rain-delayed home opener, Dorsett had seen plenty of good things in a road sweep at Danville by scores of 17-2 and 5-4.
“I’m pleased with the effort [so far],” Dorsett said Thursday as he and his players waited out a 65-minute rain delay. “We have 15 guys right now — we’re 11 players short [of a full roster] — because we have eight or nine guys in [college] tournaments.
“We’ve been replacing players, and we’ve been very thankful; everybody we’ve brought in has really made an impact.” The Rex and Quincy return to Bob Warn Field for a 7:05 p.m. game today.
The home team got a run after two were out in the bottom of the second inning when Zack Willoughby singled, reached second on a nicely executed delayed steal and scored when Kyle Kempf blasted a long double to left-center.
After retiring the first seven batters he faced, however, Rex starter Clay Manering ran into trouble with the bottom of the Gems’ batting order. Illinois State product Joe Kelch hit a smash off the third-base bag for a single, Zac Zdanowicz added another hit and Caleb Howell of Eastern Illinois was awarded an infield hit when Rex second baseman Alex Reynolds fielded his ground ball, looked to second only to see Zdanowicz was already there, then had no play at first.
A wild pitch brought in the tying run and Brandon Brian doubled to bring in two more, but Rex shortstop Edmond Cheatham turned a line drive into an unassisted double play to end the inning.
The Rex turned double plays in the next two innings as well, although the one in the top of the fifth came one batter too late. With one out and runners at second and third, Brian was walked intentionally to set up a force play at any base, but Zach George delivered a two-run single. Then Nick Tindall hit into the twin killing that stopped that rally and left the Gems ahead 5-1.
The Rex started a comeback in the bottom of the fifth. Kempf walked, Cheatham delivered a one-out single, and after two outs a walk to Michael Schroeder, a wild pitch, a walk to Brett Teschner and a single by Kyle Zimmerman cut the lead to 5-3 — although the Rex left the bases loaded.
Quincy reliever Zac Pearman came on with one out in the bottom of the sixth, however, and held the Rex hitless until Reynolds hit a ninth-inning homer.
Schroeder and Zimmerman were hitting third and fifth respectively in the Rex batting order, even though they are among the eight pitchers available for Dorsett — and Schroeder took the mound in the top of the sixth on Thursday.
Teschner, one of the returnees from last year’s team, had six RBIs in the first two Rex games, Terre Haute South graduate Jacob Hayes had five hits and Billy Timmerman has the early Prospect League lead in pitching victories, earning both the wins at Danville out of the bullpen.
“We had two days to practice and played two games,” Dorsett pinted out. “I don’t ever remember a team scoring 17 runs in its first game, and then after we got behind [on Wednesday] I was really pleased with the effort. We got one run in the seventh, one in the eighth and one in the ninth … [the Rex] have shown a lot of persistence.”
Some of the tournament participants could return to the Rex soon, although one of them — Chris Roglen, another member of the 2011 team — suffered probably a season-ending injury playing in the national junior college tournament. The major league draft could also affect the Rex roster.
But Dorsett can live with the results if his team continues to respond the way it has so far this season.
“I’ve been very pleased with the job they’ve done,” he said. “They are real receptive to the game … this is our third year in a row of having great kids.”