Fans had to wait a little longer than they may have anticipated for Fifth of July fireworks at Friday’s Terre Haute Rex-Chillicothe Paints Prospect League game due to a lightning delay that pushed the start time back an hour.
The Rex offense, however, supplied plenty to ooh and aah about as the ball was flying around Bob Warn Field early and often, leading to a 9-3 victory over the Paints, extending their winning streak to three in a row.
“The last three or four games, I feel like our guys have made some adjustments up there. We’re more aggressive and we’re swinging at pitches early in the count, which is what we’ve struggled to do,” Rex manager Tyler Wampler said of his team’s red-hot offense. “It’s fun to watch now.”
Having seen Chillicothe starter Taylor Perrett in three of his four Prospect League starts, including his last outing one week ago (June 28), the Rex were more than aware of what they were up against Friday night.
In the trio of games he toed the rubber against Terre Haute, which spanned 17 ⅔ innings, the Denison right-hander surrendered just one run.
That changed in the fourth go around, though.
Terre Haute opened the game aggressively, as Mitchell Garrity laced the second pitch he saw down the right field line for a leadoff double.
Fellow left-handed hitter Justin Jenkins followed with a bunt three pitches later. He deadened the ball perfectly down the third base line, making for a sure-fire infield single with the way the former Terre Haute South outfielder can pick them up and set them down.
Having to go as far as he did down the line to coral the ball, Chillicothe catcher Cole Andrews quickly realized he had little to no shot at nabbing the speedy Jenkins and instead tried his hand at getting Garrity, who was attempting to advance to third on the play.
The throw, however, sailed to the inside part of the bag and into left field, allowing Garrity to trot in for the first run of the night.
That was a step in the right direction for the Rex offense against Perrett.
And it got even better.
In the third, Will Hayes and Garrity opened with back-to-back singles to left. Jenkins then moved them onto second and third with a sacrifice bunt – that he nearly beat out – and Jacob Mulcahy followed with a two-run single of his own up the middle to score them.
Three batters later, Austin Weiler smacked an RBI single into center, putting the hosts on top 4-1 and quadrupling the amount of runs they’d totaled against Perrett in the previous three times they faced him.
“After seeing these guys, we can kind of plan and have an approach on how they’re going to pitch us. [Perrett] no-hit us through seven or eight innings the last time we faced him, so to see our guys come out and get on him early was huge,” said Wampler of seeing Chillicothe’s starter for the fourth time.
The run support backed Braydon Tucker, who got the starting nod on the mound for the Rex, his fifth of the summer and his third against the Paints – he faced Perrett one week ago.
Early on in the game, Tucker battled his command, as well as the humidity that forced him to wipe his right hand off several times with a towel the umpires allowed to be placed behind the mound.
It led to a pair of walks to open the first and another to open the second, but in each, he retired the next three in a row to get out of both innings unharmed.
The third began much better for Tucker, who racked up a strikeout and a groundout. It put him one out away from his first perfect frame of the evening.
He, along with his teammates and the fans in the jam-packed Bob Warn Field stands, thought he had accomplished just that with his 2-2 breaking ball to Gavin Homer. The umpire indicated it missed inside, which kept the at-bat alive. On the very next pitch, Homer lined a solo home run just over the leaping effort of Garrity in left field to even the score at the time.
Tucker shook it off and responded by striking out three of the next four he saw before being lifted from the game after the conclusion of his four innings of work.
“He wasn’t sharp early, and you could tell. Just watching him from the side, you could tell he wasn’t comfortable. His hand was a little wet and sweaty today, so the ball was going all over the place. But I felt he battled and minimized the best he could and still gave us a good start,” Wampler said of Tucker.
The offense, meanwhile, continued to extend their lead, putting up runs in the fourth – wild pitch, scoring Ethan Hunter – and the fifth – Austin Weiler RBI single, Brett McCleary sacrifice fly – to go up 7-2.
That proved to be plenty of cushion for the bullpen duo of Ross Kramer (one inning), Luke Lancaster (three innings) and Jacob Frankel (one inning), who slammed the door by spinning five innings in which they combined to surrender one run.
CHILLICOTHE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Orr dh 4-0-0-1, Baron 3b 3-0-0-0, Homer lf 4-1-1-1, Andrews c 4-0-0-0, Smith rf 3-1-0-0, Luty ss 2-0-0-0, Hajdukovic 1b 4-0-1-0, Eisel cf 3-1-1-1, Murdie 2b 4-0-1-0. Totals 31-3-4-3.
TERRE HAUTE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Garrity lf 4-3-3-1, Jenkins cf 4-0-2-1, Mulcahy 3b 5-2-2-2, Indlecoffer 1b 4-1-0-0, Harris rf 3-0-1-0, Weiler dh 4-0-2-2, McCleary c 3-0-0-1, Hunter ss 4-1-2-0, Hayes 2b 4-1-1-0. Totals 35-9-13-7.
E — Andrews, Ward. DP — TH 1. LOB — Ch 7, TH 7. 2B — Garrity, Hunter 2. 3B – Eisel, Garrity. HR – Homer. SB – Smith. SF — McCleary.
Perrett (L, 3-3)=4=8=7=7=2=1
Kramer (W, 3-6)=1=1=2=2=4=2
Perrett pitched to two batters in the fifth inning.
Kramer pitched to two batters in the sixth inning.
WP – Tucker, Perrett 2. A — 1,003. T — 2:49.
Next — Terre Haute Rex (15-17) hosts Lafayette Saturday. Chillicothe (19-13) heads home to take on Champion City the same day.