TERRE HAUTE —
The Terre Haute Rex treated 1,107 fans, including baseball legend Tommy John, to an effective combination of hitting, pitching and defense in downing the DeKalb County Liners 9-5 in Prospect League action Saturday night at Bob Warn Field.
Lucas Hileman celebrated his 21st birthday by leading off the bottom of the first inning with a home run that sailed over the fence in right-center field to give the Rex a 1-0 advantage.
“It was exciting,” Hileman said as a birthday balloon hung near his locker afterward. “There’s not too many more places I’d rather be on my 21st birthday than on the baseball field. I happened to get a good pitch to hit [off DeKalb County starter Collin Taylor] and I kept my hands inside it. It was a fastball up and in and I was sittin’ on a fastball.”
Hileman said it was the first time in his life that he’s led off the first inning with a homer.
“To do it in front of these fans and Tommy John, it was fun,” he admitted. “I couldn’t have had a better feeling.”
“He did a great job,” Rex manager Brian Dorsett said of Hileman. “That’s a big momentum builder.”
It certainly was big because the Rex tallied five more runs in the first to complete a six-run inning.
With one out, Joe Meggs got hit by a pitch and Koby Kraemer tripled over the center fielder’s head to bring Meggs home. One out later, Nick Johnson and Chris Roglen walked to load the bases.
Then Derrick Hannahs also walked, allowing Kraemer to trot home. Cameron Fagg followed with a ground-ball single to right that plated Johnson and Roglen. A wild throw from the right fielder to third base enabled Hannahs to be waved home as well.
Dorsett’s squad added another run in the second. With one out, Meggs walked and he eventually sprinted home from second when Brett Teschner grounded a double inside the third-base bag.
DeKalb County put up three runs in the fifth to cut its deficit to 7-3. Steven Scoby grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Brady Renner, Trenton Moses singled in Andy Lennington and Pat Dockendorf singled in Scoby.
But the Rex countered with a run in the bottom of the fifth when Meggs grounded into a fielder’s choice to plate Hannahs, who had singled to lead off the frame.
Padding its cushion to 9-3, Terre Haute posted its final run in the eighth when Kraemer got hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and eventually came home on a Roglen groundout.
The Liners scored two runs in the ninth, but they weren’t enough to prevent Rex starter Chris Nunn from notching the victory. Nunn gave up five hits and three earned runs in five innings.
The Rex infield turned two double plays — in the first and ninth innings — in support of four different pitchers.
Teschner led the Rex offense by going 2 for 4, while Meggs, Kraemer and Hannahs each scored two runs.
Before the game, retired Terre Haute North High School baesball coach Don Jennings and John each threw out a ceremonial first pitch. John also gave Rex players a pregame pep talk.
“It was great to win in front of Tommy,” Dorsett mentioned. “It’s always great to have him around. He’s got a wealth of wisdom. He knows a lot about baseball. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time.
“He talked to our guys about how pitchers approach the game and their prep work… what ‘getting ready’ means for pitchers.”
Dorsett said his players, who weren’t born when John was in the prime of his major-league career, listened to what the veteran pitcher was suggesting.
“They all listened,” he emphasized. “They knew who he was and what he’s done.”