Turning an opponent’s baserunning mistake into a run in the top of the ninth inning, with that foe’s best bats coming up, almost qualified as a laugher for the Terre Haute Rex and its beleaguered bullpen Sunday evening at Bob Warn Field.
But thanks to four straight innings with double plays, a winning debut for a Rose-Hulman Engineer and one inning of good hitting, the Rex held off the Danville Dans 5-3 and widened their Prospect League West Division lead to 31/2 games. The same two teams play tonight at Danville.
In the previous two days, the Rex had blown a six-run lead, also against Danville; threatened to blow another six-run margin, hanging on by their fingertips to win at Lafayette; and lost closer Thomas Waning for the rest of the summer with an injury.
So when Rose-Hulman junior Clayton Mayfield reported for his first game with the team, it didn’t take him long to see action.
He entered in the top of the sixth with Danville leading 2-1 and Rex starter Jake Ridgway approaching the end of his pitch-count limit. Mayfield was greeted with a single, but Zach Milam started a double play and it was a quick scoreless inning.
In the bottom of the inning his new teammates gave him a lead to work with. Jarrett O’Leary walked with one out and a single by Craig Shepherd, a run-scoring double by Mason Speirs, a two-run single by Lorenzo Elion and a sacrifice fly by Milam put the Rex ahead 5-2.
Mayfield got himself in trouble in the seventh by loading the bases with one out on two walks and a hit batter, which brought Gavin Dugas — who had hit one of the longest Prospect League homers in Bob Warn Field history to put the Dans ahead earlier — to the plate. Mayfield bounced off the mound to field Dugas’ grounder and spun to start a home-to-first double play, and he was out of another jam.
“Composure,” Rex manager Tyler Wampler said later when asked about his new arm. “He was very consistent with his demeanor and his effort.”
Blake Paugh opened the eighth inning with a long double and Mayfield walked a batter one out later, but Milam started another DP. When Cristian Sanchez also blasted a deep double to start the ninth, the Rex called on Hunter Kloke for his second save in as many nights.
Sanchez tried to help by breaking for third before Kloke got in the set position, but the Rex pitcher made a bad throw to let Sanchez get all the way home. Two fly balls and a strikeout kept the Dans at bay, however.
“We’re grinding to try to shut innings down late,” Wampler said after the game, “but I’m still pleased the way [the Rex players are] hanging in there when things go bad.”
Ridgway gave up a leadoff triple to Jacob Talamante in the third, nearly escaped the jam with two strikeouts, but then allowed two walks and hit a batter. The Rex tied in in the bottom of the inning without a hit on two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch.
The fifth-inning blast by Dugas was spectacular, clearing the trees in left field by approximately 30 feet, but it could have been worse. The Dans had run themselves into a double play earlier in the inning when Kobe Kato tried to go from first to third on as Zach Huffins was striking out on a pitch in the dirt.
And then, of course, the Rex brought in their secret weapon.
“[Mayfield] came in there, threw strikes, got two or three big double plays ... he was obviously the answer today,” Wampler said.
DANVILLE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Kato dh 3-0-1-0, Huffins cf 4-0-0-0, Dugas 2b 3-1-1-1, Paugh rf 3-0-1-0, Pierce 1b 3-0-1-1, Minder ss 3-0-0-0, Bigani c 4-0-0-0, Sanchez 3b 3-1-1-0, Talamante lf 4-1-1-0. Totals 30-3-6-2.
TERRE HAUTE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Ashley cf 3-1-1-0, Milam 2b 3-0-1-1, Enriquez rf 4-0-0-0, Weiler 1b 2-0-0-0, Whelan lf 4-0-0-0, O’Leary dh 1-1-0-0, Shepherd ss 3-1-1-0, Speirs c 4-1-1-1, Elion 3b 3-1-1-2. Totals 27-5-5-4.
Danville 001 010 001 — 3
Terre Haute 001 004 00x — 5
E — Elion, Sanchez, Kloke. DP — Danville 1, TH 4. LOB — Danville 8, TH 9. 2B — Ashley, Milam, Speirs, Paugh, Sanchez. 3B — Talamante. HR — Dugas. SB — Kato 2, Dugas, Sanchez. SF — Milam.
Danville IP H R ER BB SO
Haws 4 1 1 1 5 2
Klein (L 0-4) 2 4 4 4 2 1
Gammon 2 0 0 0 0 1
Terre Haute IP H R ER BB SO
Ridgway 5 3 2 2 2 6
Mayfield (W 1-0) 3 3 1 0 3 1
Kloke (S 2) 1 0 0 0 0 1
Mayfield pitched to 1 batter in the ninth.
HBP — by Ridgway (Paugh), by Haws (Ashley), by Ridgway (Kato), by Gammon (Weiler), by Gammon (O’Leary). WP — Ridgway, Klein. PB — Bigani. T — 2:48.
Next — The Terre Haute Rex (26-14) and Danville Dans (23-18) play again at 7:30 p.m. today at Danville.