QUINCY, ILL. —
Perhaps the most endearing trait of the 2011 Terre Haute Rex was their ability to repeatedly forge thrilling come-from-behind victories.
Despite that admirable attribute, the Rex are still human, and in the Prospect League West Divison playoff game against the Quincy Gems on Monday, they put themselves in a hole they couldn’t crawl out of.
Leading by four after the opening inning, the Rex faded as Quincy wiped out Terre Haute’s lead by the second inning and kept the gas pedal floored.
The Rex failed to retire the Gems until the seventh inning as the Gems rolled to a 15-5 rout at QU Stadium.
“For us to put that four-spot up early, I felt really good about it,” Rex manager Brian Dorsett said. “But then on, they took advantage of everything they had.”
Quincy had plenty of chances to create its rallies. The Gems had their leadoff runner on in five of the first six innings. Combined with untimely errors — all three of Terre Haute’s errors led to Quincy runs — and a shaky outing by Rex starting pitcher Daniel Heefner, it was a deadly combination for the Rex.
“We were a M*A*S*H unit. We had guys playing out of position with Stephen Bruno hurt [Bruno was designated hitter, but could not play at shortstop]. Those things definitely hurt,” Dorsett said.
Heefner gave up 10 runs in 41⁄3 innings of work, only six of the runs earned. Dorsett lamented Heefner’s outing and expressed that the extremely short porch in right field (295 down the line) might have contributed to his woes.
“It’s such a bandbox. Heefner is our ace, but this isn’t probably the best park for him to pitch in. He’s a fly ball guy, but it is what it is,” Dorsett said.
The Rex had 10 base hits, but could never get its small-ball game — which it used to great effect during its playoff-clinching six-game win streak — in gear.
The Rex seemingly put their stamp on the game with a two-out rally in the top of the first. Bruno reached on a single to center and Koby Kraemer bunted his way on base against a sleepy Quincy infield.
Nick Johnson then slapped a single to right. It scored Bruno.
John Loeffler was next. With the wind blowing out with a steady gust to right, Loeffler got a high fly ball into the air in right-center. The hot and humid air helped it carry all the way over the right-center field fence and it put Terre Haute up 4-0 before Quincy had a chance to bat.
Quincy’s Anthony Hecht led off the first for the Gems and repeated Loeffler’s feat. He got a solo home run up into the same gust Loeffler did and it cleared the right-field wall to cut the Rex lead to 4-1. Heefner didn’t allow any further first-inning damage.
“We came out good. We had that four-spot in the first, but after that, it was one thing after another,” said Kraemer, who was 3 for 5 with two runs scored.
That was the case in the second inning. Matt Baer reached on a Loeffler error to start the inning and Ryan Lewis hit a one-out double to left to put Baer on third. Jake Romanski hit a sacrifice fly to right to make it 4-2. Hecht then slapped a single to left to score Lewis to make it 4-3.
Bryan Lippincott then stepped up for the Gems and got a ball up into the same spot Loeffler did an inning earlier. The result was the same too — it just cleared the right-center field fence for a three-run home run. Terre Haute’s early three-run lead had disappeared into a 6-4 deficit.
Terre Haute got a run back in the third thanks to a pair of Quincy errors … but then the Rex gave the run back in the fourth when Hecht stole second and advanced to third on a Chace Mitchell throwing error. A Lippincott sacrifice fly made it 7-5.
Terre Haute made several defensive changes prior to the fifth, but it didn’t help. After a leadoff single by Derek Mattea and a hit batsman, Lewis hit a sharp grounder to Loeffler, who had moved to first from third base. The grounder bounced off Loeffler into foul territory. Mattea scored to make it 8-5 against a laboring Heefner.
“With Bruno out, we were kind of shuffled around,” said Kraemer, who played both second and third base. “This field was tough. It’s hard underneath and soft on top. But we just didn’t capitalize as much as they did.”
Romanski — Quincy’s No. 9 hitter — then slapped a double to left. It cleared the bases, put Quincy up 10-5 and chased Heefner from the game.
“They had that leadoff runner on almost every inning. It’s baseball, and when you get that leadoff runner on, more than likely he’s going to score,” Kraemer said.
Quincy’s three-run fifth effectively ended any resistance from the Rex. Chris Serritella — the Prospect League’s leading home run hitter with 15 four-baggers — added insult to injury in the sixth with a long two-run blast off Rex reliever Brandon Dorsett. Quincy added three more runs before the game mercifully ended.
Terre Haute qualified for the playoffs in its second year of existence, marking progress for the young franchise.
“It was great what we did in the second half. That last week, we knew we had to win out our last six and we did. We showed a lot of heart, especially with Brian being out those last three games. We put it together, ourselves, out on the field. We’re proud of that,” Kraemer said.
Quincy will play host to West Virginia for the Prospect League championship on Wednesday.
Gems 15, Rex 5
Terre Haute ab r h bi Quincy ab r h bi
RMitchell cf 5 0 0 0 Hecht ss 5 3 3 2
Hayes lf-2b 4 0 0 0 Pace 2b 3 2 2 0
Bruno dh 4 1 1 0 Lippincott 3b 4 2 2 4
Kraemer 2b-3b 5 2 3 0 Serritella 1b 4 2 1 2
Johnson rf 5 1 1 1 Mattea lf 5 1 2 1
Loeffler 3b-1b 5 1 1 3 Baer dh 5 2 1 1
CMitchell c 3 0 0 0 Host rf 3 1 0 0
Schroeder 1b-lf 4 0 3 0 Lewis cf 5 2 2 1
Pearson ss 4 0 1 0 Romanski c 3 0 1 2
Totals 39 5 10 4 Totals 37 15 14 13
Terre Haute Rex 401 000 000 — 5
Quincy Gems 150 132 03x — 15
E — Loeffler 2, C.Mitchell, Host, Hecht, Pace. LOB — TH 8, Quincy 5. 2B — Lewis, Romanski, Lippincott. 3B — Kraemer. HR — Loeffler, Lippincott, Serritella. SB — Hecht 2. SF — Romanski, Lippincott
IP H R ER BB SO
Terre Haute Rex
Heefner (L) 4 1-3 9 10 6 1 4
Dorsett 2 2-3 2 2 2 0 2
Flora 1-3 1 2 2 1 0
Vestring 2-3 2 1 1 0 0
Kendzora (W) 6 7 5 4 2 4
Treece 2 2 0 0 0 2
Walsh 1 1 0 0 0 0
HBP — by Heefner (Host), by Vestring (Host).
WP — Heefner, Dorsett.
Next — Quincy plays host to West Virginia in the Prospect League championship game Wednesday. Terre Haute’s season ended.