After falling behind 0-2 in its season series with St. Charles, Three Rivers dominated the third game and almost tied the series at two wins apiece in the fourth.
In the final game of the doubleheader, it looked as though the Raiders were about to pull away for a win and even the series for a moment.
Both teams were locked at one apiece for two innings when Three Rivers (9-7) came alive offensively. Nick Fakouri hit a leadoff single to right field to start the inning. Errors from St. Charles helped the Raiders' cause on back-to-back plays. Zac Salyers tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt but reached first on an error. Then, a failed pickoff put him on second and Fakouri at third.
Drew Evans came up with a huge single to score Fakouri and give the Raiders their first lead of the game.
"That was a good two-strike at-bat. (Evans) didn't try to do too much and just went with the pitch and found the barrel. He hit a nice line drive to left that was really a clutch situation for us there," Three Rivers coach Stacey Burkey said.
Salyers scored on a wild pitch to widen the gap. The errors kept piling up for St. Charles as another wild pitch allowed Evans to safely reach home for the final run of the side.
Austin Williams came in for Nash Winters on the mound and threw three straight strikeouts to put the Raiders back on offense with momentum and a chance to grow their lead. Winters pitched five innings, allowing three hits and an earned run to go along with four strikeouts.
"Nash Winters gave us a quality start," Burkey said. "He's been very consistent with his stuff here in the last month. I think he's really settling in and doing a nice job as a starter."
Three Rivers loaded the bases with two outs, but Evans popped up to the second baseman to end the side.
That was all the opportunity St. Charles needed to make a comeback. With the sunlight quickly dissipating and the ball getting harder to see, both coaches agreed the seventh inning would be the last.
The vision issues affected just about everyone in the seventh. After a leadoff double, Eric Rothermich smoked a ball to center field. Ty'Reik Thomas chased it down and tried to make the catch at a full sprint, but the ball just missed his glove, allowing a run to score.
With two on and two out, Williams looked to have delivered a strike down the middle for the final out of the game, but it was called a ball just inside. A few pitches later, the batter was inches away from going through with a swing, but the umpire determined he held up just enough.
"That last inning it was tough calls, you know. It's dark and we missed a ball that nine times out of 10 is going to be caught, but he couldn't see it," Burkey said. "It was a tough break when you're trying to finish the game in the dark. I don't know if that's what affected the umpires as well, or if he just locked up.
"We had a couple that we thought we had struck out two different times in that last inning that would've nailed down a W for us. But it's tough to not pull that one out."
Again, St. Charles made the most of its opportunity. Seth Denoyer drilled a two-RBI single to tie the game at four before Williams got the final strikeout.
"It's just tough. It's the nature of the game. Baseball is a hard sport. I mean, it can go either way. Not having lights didn't really help, but I mean, I think we competed very well today honestly," Winters said.
With it being a region game, it's unlikely the final result will hold as a tie, but Burkey said he's unsure what the final decision on the game will be at this time.
To start the day, The Raiders lost the conclusion of a suspended game when St. Charles scored three unanswered runs in two innings to take a 13-9 win, but Three Rivers quickly bounced back and annihilated St. Charles 19-2 in six innings in the first full game of the home doubleheader. The Raiders held a 13-1 hit advantage over the visitors.
"First game, we had a lot of hits and everybody did their job," Winters said. "Pitchers threw well. We didn't throw well the first two games, but we came out and threw a lot better today, but sometimes it just doesn't go your way."
Both the defense and offense shined for Three Rivers in its win. Shelby Quiggins, Drew Evans and Elvin Diaz combined to allow one hit on the day. Quiggins pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing a solo home run as his only hit and striking out four. Evans went an inning, striking out one and giving up two walks, and Diaz pitched 1 1/3 innings. He struck out three and allowed a walk.
"We came out and played really well," Burkey said. "Certainly several quality at-bats. We were able to open the game up and get a lopsided win. The guys were playing loose and confident and that was good to see." Fakouri and Zane Wallace drove in the lion's share of the run. Fakouri went 3 of 4 at the plate, scored four runs and batted in four more while hitting a home run. Wallace went 2 for 3 and tallied five RBIs.
Three Rivers will travel to Millington, Tennessee, Tuesday to face Dyersburg State in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic