Three Rivers rallied from down 5-1 in the second inning to beat Southwestern Illinois 11-5, and it all started when Tony Rudd hit the first home run in his entire life.
"(My mom) is not going to believe me," Rudd said.
With one out in the fourth inning, Rudd pulled a long fly ball to left field. As he neared second base, the Three Rivers (2-3) dugout started celebrating the homer, but Rudd didn't believe it.
"Off the bat I thought fly ball, left field. I was just running it out. I heard everybody screaming and I thought 'No way it went out,'" Rudd said.
He neared third and asked Three Rivers coach Stacey Burkey "Did it go over?"
"Yeah," Burkey said.
Rudd looked at the home plate umpire, who was giving the home run signal. Ninety feet from completing his first home trot, Rudd was finally convinced.
It was the first of four runs the Raiders scored in the fourth inning to tie the game.
Leadoff hitter Zane Wallace followed Rudd with a walk, and with two outs, Reece Reading singled and Nick Fakouri hit a two-run double to left field. Fakouri then tied the game on Ty'Reik Thomas' single.
The next three innings were quiet as both teams struggled to string anything together with temperatures in the high 30s.
SWIC (0-1) brought four batters to the plate in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings. Three Rivers retired the side in the eighth and ninth innings and the final five SWIC batters in the game struck out.
For a while, the Raiders weren't faring much better. They had the side retired in the fifth, and brought four batters to the plate in the sixth and seventh innings.
In the bottom of the eighth, Rudd, who was 3 for 5 with two runs in the game, got a leadoff single.
Wallace moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt, and with two outs, Reading walked and Fakouri connected for a second two-run double.
Thomas singled and with runners on the corners, pinch runner Andrew DeLaCruz scored from third on a passed ball. Drew Evans walked and Cade Kennedy made it 10-5 with a two-run double. Kennedy then scored on Clayton Meyer's single.
"We got down early but didn't give up. It was good to see us come back and pull it out," Burkey said.
Nash Winters took the mound for the Raiders in the third inning and pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
Beau Burson followed him and threw three scoreless innings with three strikeouts, and AJ Calhoun struck out the side in the ninth to finish the game.
"It was great to see Nash Winters come out and throw the way he did," Burkey said. "That's 62 pitches and coming off of Tommy John surgery a year ago, I thought he was really strong. Big confidence boost for him."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic