As it turned out, the mistake the Cape Catfish made in the top of the ninth inning Sunday at Bob Warn Field was loading the bases.
The Prospect League visitors from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, had tied the Terre Haute Rex with three straight extra-base hits to start the frame, but then drew a walk and reached on an error to put three on with nobody out.
Easy peasy, Rex pitchers might say. The Rex got a ground ball for a force at home, a bouncer to short was turned into an inning-ending double play by Ethan Hunter, and Hunter hit a one-out triple in the bottom of the inning and scored the winning run as the Rex walked off 3-2.
Colton Panaranto, who became the winning pitcher despite getting a blown save for the day, had two experiences with the bases loaded. He came in in the eighth with runners at second and third and no outs, struck out the first two batters he faced, walked one — although most if not all of the Rex felt Panaranto had that batter struck out too — and then came back from a 3-and-0 count for a third strikeout that kept the Rex lead 2-0.
“Colton Panaranto came in and did an unbelievable job,” manager Tyler Wampler said afterward.
“Colton threw his [butt] off,” Hunter agreed.
Two hits and a walk — another occasion in which the Rex pitcher appeared to have the batter struck out — had loaded the bases with none out in the top of the third, but Rex starter Foster Anshutz struck out the next two batters and got a grounder to end the inning.
Two of the batters Anshutz fanned, incidentally, got ninth-inning doubles.
“We trusted our guys to get it done,” Wampler said about the many escapes his pitchers had. “Give them a lot of credit, because that team [the Catfish, who beat the Rex 8-6 on Saturday] swung the bat well the last two games.”
“I think we really competed all day,” Hunter added. “Take your hats off to the pitchers, we played good defense behind them, and we finally started hitting.”
The home team finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh inning. Drew Decker drew a walk and stole second, Hunter beat out an infield hit and stole second himself, and with runners at second and third and one out, the Catfish pulled their infield in. Mitchell Garrity ruined that strategy with a smash up the middle for a two-run single.
Panaranto’s eighth-inning heroics seemed to have put the game in the win column, but Ryan Howe, John Behrends and Turner Fritts hit consecutive doubles to start the ninth.
After Hunter’s triple, however, the Catfish elected to pitch to Garrity instead of issuing intentional walks to set up force plays. Same result: Garrity drove the ball through the pulled-in infield for his third RBI.
“The ninth inning is never easy,” Wampler said.
“That was fun,” was Hunter’s reaction.
CAPE GIRARDEAU (AB-R-H-RBI) — Stone lf 4-0-1-0, Faulkner dh 3-0-1-0, Howe ss 4-1-2-0, Behrends cf 5-1-4-1, Fritts 1b 5-0-1-1, Woods rf 2-0-0-0, Cottom c 3-0-2-0, Jordan 3b 5-0-0-0, Wallace 2b 5-0-0-0. Totals 36-2-11-2.
TERRE HAUTE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Garrity lf 5-0-3-3, Jenkins cf 4-0-2-0, Bridge 2b 4-0-0-0, Weiler 1b 4-0-1-0, Hjelle 1b 0-0-0-0, Fritz rf 4-0-1-0, Armentrout dh 4-0-1-0, Decker 3b 3-1-0-0, Mulcahy 3b 0-0-0-0, Frazier c 4-0-0-0, Hunter ss 4-2-3-0. Totals 36-3-11-3.
Cape Girardeau 000 000 002 — 2
Terre Haute 000 000 201 — 3
One out when winning run scored.
E — Wallace, Jordan, Weiler, Garrity, Bridge. DP — TH 1. LOB — CG 16, TH 9. 2B — Behrends 2, Howe, Fritts. 3B — Hunter. SB — Jenkins, Bridge, Faulkner, Behrends, Hunter 2, Weiler, Decker, Fritts. CS — Faulkner. SH — Cottom 2, Faulkner.
Cape Girardeau IP H R ER BB SO
Hicks 6 6 0 0 0 5
Stewart 1 2 2 2 1 2
Bunnell (L) 11/3 3 1 1 0 1
Terre Haute IP H R ER BB SO
Anshutz 42/3 6 0 0 2 7
Frankel 11/3 0 0 0 1 2
Baksha 1 1 0 0 1 0
Lancaster 0 1 0 0 0 0
Panaranto (W) 2 3 2 2 2 3
WP — Anshutz. T — 2:42. Att — 464.
Next — Both teams are idle until Tuesday. The Terre Haute Rex (2-2) play at Chillicothe and the Cape Catfish (2-2) host DuPage.