The Terre Haute Rex did their part Friday night in Prospect League baseball at Bob Warn Field. Help would be appreciated.
“I guess we’re surviving,” Rex manager Tyler Wampler said after his team’s 4-2 win over visiting Champion City, “doing our best to stay afloat.
“But it’s a tough position when you’re relying on other teams to help you out.”
The Lafayette Aviators beat Danville in the first game of a Friday doubleheader, but Chillicothe also defeated West Virginia. That put the Paints in first place in the East Division, pending the outcome of the second game of the Danville-Lafayette doubleheader, and left the Rex 31/2 games behind Danville with four games to play.
Doable, said Rex reliever Luke Lancaster.
“Danville’s been struggling,” the former Northview pitcher said after picking up the win Friday night. “I’m confident if we win out, we might get the second seed [in the Prospect League East playoffs].”
Lancaster was one of three pitching heroes for the Rex on Friday, the first being surprise starter Joey Rogers. In his first start of the season, Rogers pitched one-hit ball for four innings before running into tough luck in the fifth.
“A pleasant surprise,” Wampler said of Rogers’ work. “We knew he had the ability and he proved it today.”
Champion City’s Hassan Westbrook was even better — temporarily. He retired the first 10 Rex hitters before Jeremy Houston lashed a one-out single in the fourth that started a two-run rally.
Jacob Mulcahy followed with a hit of his own, Houston got a running lead from second that led to a double steal, Austin Weiler’s grounder drove in the first run and Brett McCleary’s clutch two-out single made it 2-0.
Houston, a member of the Rex for a little over a week, is batting over .400 and has provided immediate help.
“We knew about him, but he had a summer internship,” Wampler explained of the Indiana University junior, the “best infield defender in the league” in his manager’s assessment.
“I was working for a radio station, but my coach wanted me to play some summer ball [when the internship ended],” Houston said, “so here I am . . . the team’s great; a lot of great people.”
Rogers retired the first batter in the fifth, but then his bad luck started. Marcus Ernst of the Kings topped a ground ball into a Bermuda Triangle between the mound, first base and second base. Brendan Sher left first base to make the play and threw back to Rogers, but the pitcher couldn’t find first base in time.
A hit and the only error of the game put runners at second and third, and a grounder and a two-out single tied the score. When another slowly hit ball rolled through the infield, Wampler called on Lancaster, and he pitched 31/3 hitless innings with five strikeouts.
“He’s been one of our best guys in the month of July,” Wampler said of Lancaster, who had a shaky start to his summer season, “and he wants the ball every chance he gets.”
“I’ve been doing a lot better after some early-season struggles,” said Lancaster, whose mastery of location and changing speeds, combined with an unorthodox delivery, makes him an effective weapon. “Leave it low and hit my corners.”
The Rex finally got their go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth. Brayden Frazier hit a one-out single, Aaron Beck walked and Houston got an infield hit to load the bases. One run scored on a walk to Mulcahy, and McCleary added his second clutch two-out RBI.
And after seeing three innings of Lancaster’s junk, Colten Panaranto’s fastball had to have looked even faster to the Kings hitters, who went down meekly in the ninth.
The same two teams meet at 7:05 p.m. today, the final home game for the Rex.