Brent Metheny came up to the plate looking for the big winning hit. A little one got the job done.
The Mid-Missouri Mavericks defeated the Rockford RiverHawks 4-3 on Monday at Taylor Stadium. Metheny drove in the winning run in the eighth with a two-out RBI bunt single.
With the game tied at 3, Metheny came to the plate with C.J. Thomas on third and two outs. With the infield playing on the outfield grass, Metheny dropped a bunt down the third base line. Metheny beat the throw by pitcher Jesen Merle by a step, and Thomas scored the deciding run.
“I’ve been working on my swing, working on those things instead of bunting,” Metheny said. “Coming up in the bottom of the eighth in a tie game with a runner on third, and they’re going to give you the run, you have to take it.”
The Mavs had threatened to strand Thomas at third base twice in one game. Thomas tripled in the fifth inning but watched as Thomari Story-Harden grounded into a double play to keep the game tied.
“I was thinking, there’s no way we can do it (twice in one game),” Thomas said. “I was looking for a passed ball, actually. Then he squared to bunt, and I was like, ‘OK.’”
The Mavs (15-45) have won two games in a row against the RiverHawks (36-26), the leaders in the Frontier League’s West Division.
“The guys are playing,” Mid-Missouri manager Jim Gentile said. “They want to win.
“These players are thinking on their own. They don’t need someone to give them a play.”
Rockford scored two runs in the top half of the fifth to tie it at 3. Mavericks starter Greg Russell walked the first two batters, and Gentile replaced him with Ty Cline.
Olmo Rosario showed bunt, and with Metheny charging from third base, Kevin Ciarrachi attempted to steal third. Shortstop Rafael Lara ran to third to cover the base, but the throw from catcher Jason Wuerfel went behind him and rolled into left field. Ciarrachi jogged home to score and Kiley Vaughn took second.
Vaughn advanced to third on a grounder to short and scored on another grounder.
The Mavs went ahead 3-1 in the fourth when Eric Darjean drove in Metheny with an RBI triple. Lara then scored Darjean with a chopper to short.
The Mavs scored first in the first. With two outs, Blake Blase hit a grounder to short, but first baseman Rich Austin did not look a routine throw into his mitt. The ball glanced off his mitt into foul territory, and Blase advanced to second.
Story-Harden walked to put runners on first and second, and Metheny followed with a hard grounder to second. Rockford second baseman Vaughn attempted to backhand it, but the ball deflected off his forearm into right field. Scorers ruled it a hit, and Blase scored.
Metheny went 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
Russell, Cline and Mid-Missouri relievers David Lemieux and Justin Craker combined to allow four hits and two earned runs.
Russell started for the first time all year and pitched four solid innings, allowing two hits and two earned runs.
“Russell’s going to be our fifth starter now,” Gentile said. “He’ll get another start.”