The bottom of the Mid-Missouri Mavericks’ batting order rose to the top Sunday night.
Rafael Lara sparked the Mavs in a 6-4 victory against the first-place Rockford RiverHawks at Taylor Stadium.
Mid-Missouri improved to 14-45. Rockford dropped to 36-25.
Lara, the No. 9 hitter, used his bat, legs and glove.
“I got lucky twice,” he said. “That’s what I need to start getting my hits.”
With the Mavs trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning, Lara came to the plate with Eric Darjean on third and Brent Metheny on second. Lara hit a single off his bat handle over first baseman Aaron McEachran’s head that scored Darjean to tie at 2.
Lara then drew the second errant pickoff attempt from starting pitcher Mica Christensen (0-1). His throw to first hit Lara’s helmet and ricocheted toward second base. Metheny scored on the error to give Mid-Missouri the lead, while Lara lay facedown in the dirt for half a minute before getting up.
“It actually hit my head and the helmet” Lara said, pointing to the back of his neck. “I was kind of dizzy, a little bit, and my ears were so loud.”
Despite the dizziness, Lara advanced from first to third on Dusty Hillman’s single. Doug Schutt’s throw from center field ended up in the Mid-Missouri dugout, and Lara scored on the error to stretch the lead to 4-2.
Hillman scored on a throwing error by third baseman Ben Fjelland to give the Mavs their biggest lead at 5-2.
Rockford rallied back in the top of the sixth. Kevin Ciarrachi led off with a single and moved to second when Kiley Vaughn walked. A bunt moved the runners to second and third, and Shaff Elkouri scored them both with a bloop single that landed on the right field line to bring the RiverHawks to within 5-4.
Hillman cut the rally short with a 4-3 double play to end the inning.
Hillman’s double play marked the second brilliant play from the Mavs’ middle infield. Lara nearly doubled up Rico Santana at first base when he made a lunging grab of a soft line drive in shallow center field.
“That’s how you build a ballclub, catcher, shortstop, second and center,” Mid-Missouri manager Jim Gentile said. “You need to be strong there.”
The Mavs added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Hillman reached on an error by Vaughn at second base. C.J. Thomas then lined a double down the left field line to score Hillman and increase the Mavs’ lead to 6-4.
Thomas’ double was the only extra-base hit by the Mavs, but Mid-Missouri took advantage of five Rockford errors.
Gentile said the Mavericks know all about how fielding problems can hurt a team.
“That’s what happened to us at the beginning of the year,” Gentile said. “When you make errors, they always come back to get you.”
Lara scored the Mavs’ first run in the third inning. He led off the inning with a swinging-bunt single, then advanced from first to third on a bad pickoff throw from Christensen. Lara then scored on Thomas’ sacrifice fly.
Lara went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Thomas went 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Danny Shuck (2-1) earned the win for the Mavericks. He pitched six innings, allowed eight hits and four runs, three of them earned.