TERRE HAUTE —
It was exactly three months to Halloween, so that might explain why it was a rather spooky baseball game as Slippery Rock defeated the Terre Haute Rex 6-2 in Prospect League action at Bob Warn Field on Sunday.
How spooky? First, the Rex committed an uncharacteristic five errors.
Second, the Rex had a baserunner called out for a ball “touching” his foot on a bunt attempt as he approached first base in the fifth inning. To say the baserunner was surprised would be an understatement.
Third, soon after the Rex pulled to within 3-2 in the eighth inning, a baserunner was doubled off first base after failing to retag second base on his return trip, ending a promising rally.
Fourth, in the top of the ninth inning, one Rex player committed three errors, allowing the visiting Sliders to tally three unearned runs to put the game on ice — if you can say ice on a hot day with temperatures in the low 90s.
“It’s unfortunate, a pretty ugly game for us,” Rex manager Brian Dorsett bemoaned. “Especially right now at this time of the year … you hope to have a better performance.
“It’s just one of those weird games. We’ve tightened this thing up defensively, we’ve been playing pretty well. Tonight was just a night that kind of grabbed us and we couldn’t do anything about it. But it can happen to the best. I’ve seen it happen in the major leagues, and unfortunately it happened to us tonight.”
The Rex began the game in inauspicious fashion, falling behind 1-0 before the 829 fans had settled into their seats. Still, it could have been worse.
Rex starter Matthew Kohorst walked leadoff batter Trent Wooldridge, then his errant pickoff throw allowed Wooldridge to scamper to third. Michael Durham followed with an infield RBI-single for the 1-0 lead. Fortunately for the Rex, Durham was also erased at second base for failing to tag up on his return journey to first, effectively halting that rally too.
There the score remained until the fifth inning, when the Sliders pushed across a couple runs on three hits off Kohorst to go up 3-0.
Meanwhile, the Rex were stranding runners at second base in the third and fourth innings, then at second and third in the fifth. Chris Roglen was “guilty” on the bunt play in the midst of the fifth-inning rally, bringing Dorsett out of the dugout to question the call to no avail.
The Rex finally scored their first run in the sixth. A second straight lost-in-the-sun-in-right-field double by Stephen Bruno, a bunt single by Koby Kraemer, Bruno scoring on a John Loeffler’s ground out.
Rex reliever Mike Schroeder tossed three shutout innings, then with one out in the eighth inning, Bruno hit his third home run since joining the Rex to get within 3-2. That long blast to left field finally drove Slippery Rock starter Donovan Feenstra from the mound.
Kraemer greeted Sliders’ closer Chase Byerly with a line-drive single, but Nick Johnson’s bid for a single to center was corralled by Durham. Kraemer had rounded second on the play, stumbled and missed tagging second on the way back to first. Durham threw the ball to second to complete the inning-ending double play.
The Sliders three runs in the ninth were the result of a double by James Lundstrom, a sacrifice bunt, a RBI-single by Fred Ford and three errors by third baseman Chace Mitchell.
Byerly issued a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Jacob Hayes in the bottom of the ninth, but retired the other three Rex batters he faced to earn his league-leading 14th save.
“Slippery Rock is one of those teams, they just go after you,” Dorsett said. “They don’t swing [the bat] real well, they are a team that puts [the ball] in play and executes. They made all the plays they had to make tonight and we made quite a few errors at the end. When you do that it puts your team in a bad spot.”
The Rex slipped to 13-9 in the West Division second-half standings, and will begin its final week of the regular season 1 1/2 games in arrears to Quincy and Springfield, both 15-8.
After an off day today, the Rex play two games at DeKalb County, then finish the regular season with three straight home games Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“I think this team has a lot of heart,” Dorsett said. “We’ve come from behind a lot. I think we can do it again. Just a matter of getting on a roll, getting on a streak … going into DeKalb, starting there and finishing with five [wins] in a row.”