There were plenty of heroics to go around for the baseball Wildcats Tuesday.
Union (4-8, 2-0) scored a run in the sixth inning and another in the seventh inning to complete a 3-2 comeback win at Pacific (3-4, 0-3).
The big hero at the plate for the Wildcats was first baseman Caleb Mabe, who led off the sixth inning with a solo home run and then drove in the go-ahead run with two out in the top of the seventh.
“Caleb Mabe came through huge for us,” Union Head Coach Ryan Bailey said. “We hadn’t done much at the plate since early in the game and his home run tied the game and gave us a spark. He’s been struggling at the plate some this year but he’s been working very hard in practice to get himself going and it was great to see a good kid come through in the clutch.”
The Indians committed four errors in the game while Union worked a clean defensive game.
One of those errors led to Union opening the scoring in the top of the second inning. Catcher Avery Morrow’s foul pop fly was dropped on the infield and Morrow made the best of his second chance with an RBI double, scoring Logan Groff from second.
“We still need to find a way to eliminate some of our errors,” Pacific Head Coach Jeff Reed said. “We had a missed foul ball dropped for a third out and next pitch the guy hits a double. (If) we make plays that doesn’t happen.”
Jacob Fleming pitched 2.1 innings for the Wildcats, striking out seven. He allowed two hits before being pulled after hitting his pitch count and left a runner on base that came around to score.
Trevor Kelly pitched the remainder of the game, 4.2 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits and five walks with two strikeouts.
Pacific was able to get the tying run to third and the winning run on second with two out in the bottom of the seventh before Kelly struck out Pacific right fielder Ryan Sauvage to end the threat and close out the win.
“Jacob Fleming was dealing at the plate, but we had a plan to get him out of the game at 45 pitches so that he can pitch a full game on Thursday against St. James,” Bailey said. “Trevor had to come in to a one-run game where the guy he was replacing was unhittable. That’s a lot of pressure but Trevor has been through that pressure before on a basketball court so he’s a kid we know we can trust in that situation. He allowed some baserunners but he never allowed the big inning. I’ve been through enough games with Pacific to know that they are a well-coached team who comes through in the clutch more times than not. To get a strikeout with the tying and winning run on base in the bottom of the seventh is a moment we’ll enjoy for a while.”
On the other side, Joey Casey pitched the complete game for the Indians. Casey allowed two earned runs on eight hits and a walk with two strikeouts.
“Probably our No. 1 pitcher from the beginning of the season, Jobe Courtney, went down in our second game of the year against Hermann with an arm injury,” reed said. “He threw around 15 pitches and heard something in his arm pop. Well the pop is a torn UCL. He is done for the season. He will still DH for us this year a lot of the time. Well, we have been looking for someone to fill those innings and Joey Casey has stepped up tremendously. He has pitched really well against Sullivan and Union and we have given him nothing good to show how well he has pitched. He has definitely been a bright spot.”
In Union’s half of the seventh, pinch hitter Zeek Koch led off with a double deep into the left-center-field gap. Pinch runner Matt Bray moved up to third base before being thrown out at the plate while attempting to tag up on a fly ball to Sauvage in shallow right field.
A single from Kelly and a walk issued to Fleming kept the inning alive for Union and brought Mabe back up to the plate.
Mabe’s single to shallow center field brought Kelly in for what proved to be the winning run.
“I was very appreciative of the boys to pick me up after I made a mistake by having Matt Bray try to score on Peyton Burke’s shallow fly ball in the seventh,” Bailey said. “With the top of our lineup coming up I should have held Matt at third and tried to have Trevor or Jacob drive him in. I went for it and we almost paid the price. When we stick together and keep our heads in the game, we’re a team that doesn’t give up and plays until the last out and we definitely showed that tonight when Trevor was able to get on and score on Caleb’s bloop single.”
In the bottom half of the inning, Pacific center fielder Matt Strong got on base with a walk to lead of the inning, but was caught stealing second.
“Trevor was struggling to throw strikes and that was a huge play for us,” Bailey said. “We’d caught him leaning on a pickoff attempt earlier in the inning and that helped some with his jump. Avery is so quick behind the plate and it was just a great play by a great kid.”
Joey Casey then walked and Jordan Cowsert singled to get the tying and game winning runs aboard.
Courtney then drove a grounder to shortstop that threatened to tie or win the game for the Indians, but Fleming, now in at shortstop, was able to make a potentially game-saving play.
“We had a groundball up the middle that Jacob Fleming was able to knock down, pick up, spin, and throw a dart to first base to get the out just before the runner got there,” Bailey said. “It was a bang-bang play that went our way. Being able to stick with that play and have the confidence to make a blind throw to first and put it right in the mitt is why Jacob is such a valuable player whether on the mound or not.”
That set the stage for Kelly’s strikeout of Sauvage for the final out.
Mabe, 2-2, and Kelly, 2-3, had the only two multi-hit performances for the Wildcats.
Burke, Eli Klenke, Morrow and Koch all finished with one hit on the day.
Klenke, Koch and Morrow each doubled.
Cowsert led the Pacific offense, going 3-3 with a walk and one run batted in.
Joey Casey, 2-3, singled twice and walked.
Sauvage, 1-4, doubled and scored.
Strong scored the other Pacific run and stole one base.
Union continued Four Rivers Conference play in a matchup of 2-0 teams in the conference standings Thursday. The Wildcats next play at Hermann Monday at 4 p.m.
The Indians dropped a road game to Fox Wednesday and next host St. James Thursday, April 19, at 4:30 p.m.