Entering the bottom of the eighth inning, the Chillicothe Paints led 5-0 while holding the Terre Haute Rex hitless in Prospect League baseball Friday night at Bob Warn Field.
But Chillicothe starter Taylor Perrett was closing in on his 90-pitch limit after allowing only one hit batsman and one walk through seven innings, so the Paints sent relievers to the mound in his place.
My oh my, how this game changed after that.
The Rex exploded for five runs — including a dramatic steal of home by Will Hayes — and five hits in the eighth to tie the score. After eventual winning pitcher Luke Lancaster of Brazil held the visitors scoreless in the ninth, Cole Albers singled home Carter Bridge with the winning run in the bottom of the frame as the Rex pulled out a thrilling 6-5 victory.
The Paints tallied an unearned run in the first and an unearned run in the second off Rex starter Braydon Tucker to take an early lead. A three-run eighth stretched their advantage to 5-0 as reporters started texting Rex officials to see if the team had ever been no-hit in the past.
That turned into a moot point, however, as Bridge greeted Chillicothe reliever Cal McAninch with a grounded single past the diving shortstop. One out later, Jake Armentrout singled and Albers followed with a bloop single to right-center field to plate Bridge with the Rex’s first run.
But there would be more. Many, many more.
Hayes singled up the middle to bring home Armentrout and a balk called on McAninch moved Albers and Hayes up one base. Justin Jenkins lofted a deep sacrifice fly to right to score Albers and cut Terre Haute’s deficit to 5-3. Then new pitcher Nate Haugh walked Ross Indlecoffer to put runners on first and third.
With the right-handed Austin Weiler in the batter’s box, Hayes broke for home on Haugh’s awkward-looking pitch and scored. Weiler then looped an RBI single to center to send Indlecoffer scurrying home from second to tie the score at 5-5.
When it was the Rex’s turn to bat again in the ninth, Bridge — the same player who broke up the no-hitter one inning earlier — belted a leadoff triple into the right-center gap. So Chillicothe told upcoming batters Brayden Frazier and Armentrout to take their bases and set up a force anywhere with no outs.
As it turned out, that didn’t matter.
Albers singled to right, enabling Bridge to score and the patient Rex fans to cheer at the top of their lungs.
“Tonight was a tremendous effort by a lot of our guys,” Rex manager Tyler Wampler told the Tribune-Star. “I thought our pitching staff did a great job of keeping us within reach. The bottom of our lineup came up big for us as well. It’s easy to root for this group because we know they won’t give up until the last out.”