TERRE HAUTE —
Every now and then, baseball provides moments that will live on in the memories of all that witness it.
Wednesday night at Bob Warn Field was one of those rare occurrences.
Terre Haute South graduate Jacob Hayes sprinted around the bases for a game-winning inside-the-park three-run home run in an otherwise mundane game for the Terre Haute Rex.
Trailing 5-1 going into the ninth against Prospect League Western Division rival Hannibal (8-3), the Rex celebrated an improbable 6-5 victory.
The Rex were down to their final out with Koby Kraemer at the plate and nobody on base.
Kraemer flipped his ankle protector, dropped his bat and trotted to first base with a walk.
Three batters later, Cavemen pitcher Ethan Schlechte had walked the bases loaded. Then pinch-hitter Chace Mitchell, who was 4 for 10 in his past three games, took a 2-1 fastball on the outside corner and placed it down the right-field line for a two-run single.
Hayes, who had been on base three times prior to his ninth-inning at-bat, lifted a high fly ball 20 yards left of straightaway center field.
Cavemen center fielder Matt Burton was frozen. As Hayes approached first base, Terre Haute first base coach Darrin Barton yelled to Hayes “he lost it, he lost it,” and Hayes was off to the races.
Hayes was waved around third and just beat the relay throw to the plate, giving the Rex (5-7) a third straight victory. The Cavemen stood in disbelief as the entire Rex team mobbed Hayes in front of home plate.
“I thought I just popped it up, and I was rounding first and coach Barton started waving me and I just took off. Then I saw it get to the left-center field fence and I knew I was scoring then,” Hayes said. “Winning these three games at home is big, especially winning like that. That’s the most fun I’ve had since I hit a walk-off my junior year [at Terre Haute South].”
Manager Brian Dorsett had no doubt about sending Mitchell up to pinch-hit.
“Coach had me taking till I got a strike. Once he got me 2-1, I was sitting middle-in so hopefully I could drive something over the fence again, but he gave me a nice little one that I could poke over the right-field line and that’s what I did,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never been a part of a team that made a comeback like that. That was incredible.”
Kraemer, who scored the first Rex run in the seventh when led off with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Brett Teschner, was impressed by Mitchell’s clutch hit off the bench.
“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit because he hadn’t been in all game. He comes in bases loaded, he does a nice piece of hitting, scores two, obviously keeps the inning going,” Kraemer said.
Dorsett, a former big-leaguer and part of the game for several decades, had never seen a game end with an inside-the-park home run.
“That was amazing. That’s the way you dream that you make comebacks like that,” Dorsett said. “A big two-RBI [hit] by Chace, he’s seeing the ball well, he’s coming up big. Jacob Hayes put in play, I don’t know how you lose the ball off the bat in these lights, this sky.”
Cavemen starting pitcher Mark Himmelberg, who had a 1.29 earned-run average in two prior starts, scattered four hits through eight innings.
“We were dead for eight innings, just couldn’t get anything going,” Kraemer said. “When I got that walk, I had no idea it was going to lead to anything like that. … I’m still in shock. I don’t really know how all that went down,”
Rex starter Chris Nunn, who also had a 1.29 ERA in two previous starts, allowed Hannibal to get four in the second inning, hitting two batters and walking a man.
Matt Kohorst pitched 42⁄3 innings of one-hit relief, striking out four. Kohorst earned his first win for the Rex.
“Great for Kohorst, because Kohorst threw so well. I was so happy for him. He threw such a great game in relief,” Dorsett said. “These are the kinds of things you hope you build off the momentum.”
The Rex hope to build off the momentum and challenge for the top of the division. The Cavemen have a formidable squad, and the Rex hope to climb toward them and Quincy at the top of the division.
“They’re pretty good all-around,” Kraemer said of the Cavemen. “They had a good arm, kept us off-balance, we chased a couple pitches here and there. That’s why you come up to the ballpark every day, see something new like that.”
Dorsett, who plans to continue to tinker with his lineups, hopes the win proves momentous.
“You’d like to think that this is the type of thing that would propel you in the first half,” Dorsett said. “This is the type of win that teaches them never give up, never ever because you just never know. Freak things happen, and that was one of them.”
Rex 6, Cavemen 5
Hannibal ab r h bi TH ab r h bi
Haen lf 5 1 2 0 Hayes ss 3 1 2 3
Irby 3b 5 0 2 1 Mitchell cf 3 0 0 0
Burton cf 3 0 2 0 Manning rf 4 0 1 0
Tucker dh 2 0 0 0 Johnson dh 4 0 0 0
Zmmrmn 1b 5 1 1 1 Meggs lf 4 0 0 0
Lang rf 4 1 1 0 Kraemer 3b 3 2 1 0
Cheatham c 2 1 1 1 Loeffler 1b 3 1 1 0
Mangler 2b 3 1 0 0 Teschner c 2 1 0 1
Fuentes ss 3 0 1 2 Pearson 2b 3 0 0 0
C.Mitchell ph 1 1 1 2
Totals 32 5 10 4 Totals 30 6 6 6
Hannibal 040 010 000 — 5
Terre Haute 000 000 105 — 6
DP — H 0, TH 1. LOB — H 9, TH 5. 2B — Kraemer (1), Loeffler (1), Irby (2). HR — Hayes (1), Zimmerman (1). SF — Teschner. SB — Hayes (2), Manning (3).
IP H R ER BB SO
Himmelberg 7 4 1 1 2 2
Schlechte 12⁄3 1 4 4 3 1
Meyer (L) 0+ 1 1 1 0 0
Nuunn 41⁄3 9 5 5 2 2
Kohorst 42⁄3 1 0 0 2 4
HBP — by Nunn (Irby), by Kohorstn (Ziimmermann), by Nunn (Fuentes), by Kohorst (Fuentes). WP — Himmelberg, Schlechte.
A — 815.
Next — Terre Haute (5-7) plays tonight at Dubois County.