Fifteen games remain in the regular season, and Three Rivers baseball has already matched last season's win total.
After picking up a four-game sweep of Metropolitan Community College over the weekend, the Raiders swept their first Region XVI series since sweeping St. Charles in a two-game series two seasons ago, and they're now a win away from their first 20-win season since 2015.
It wasn't easy, though. Three Rivers picked up a close 7-6 win to start the series before following it up with a commanding 11-3 victory to end the first day. Sunday's games were even closer. Three Rivers won 10-9 and followed it up with an 18-13 shootout that lasted 11 innings to clinch the sweep.
In the final game of the series, Three Rivers (19-17-1, 7-12-1 Region XVI) trailed 11-4 after six innings. They put a run on the board in the seventh before Cameron Johnson struck out the side to get the Raiders back at the plate.
A couple of home runs completed the comeback and tied things up. John Rodriguez narrowed the deficit with a two-run bomb down the left-field line in the eighth inning. In the ninth, Ty'Reik Thomas tied the game with a three-run home run, scoring Nick Fakouri and Winston Welter.
The Raiders climbed ahead in the 10th before the Wolves (4-21, 2-14 Region XVI) responded and tied the game again with an RBI single, sending it to the 11th inning. The offense exploded for six runs on six hits in the inning to take control.
"Roberto, John and Reece (Reading) all picked up RBIs in quality at-bats, and Kyle (Clayton) opened our lead up more with a two-RBI single," Three Rivers coach Stacey Burkey said.
Elvin Diaz shut down their bats in the bottom of the inning to pick up the win after going the final 1 2/3 innings.
"It was sure nice to have that velocity to finish the game," Burkey said. "He was throwing the hardest that I've seen him throw. It was a great team day for us with multiple guys stepping up and producing."
Game three gave the Raiders a guaranteed series win, but it was a seesaw battle. The lead changed hands three times in the first four innings, and the Wolves led 9-7 after six. Kyle Clayton hit a home run to pull Three Rivers within one in the seventh. The Raiders were down to their last strike twice. Palmer Campbell drew a full-count walk to get on base and keep the game going. Welter got a hit to left field, advancing pinch-runner Zac Salyers to third.
Roberto Mejia finished off the comeback when he drove a 1-1 pitch into center field to score Salyers and Welter. Braden Cox and the defense held Metropolitan scoreless with the help of a 5-4-3 double play after a leadoff single. Cox was given credit for the win after tossing a scoreless 1 2/3 innings to end another gut-check game for the Raiders.
"It was like a heavyweight fight," Burkey said. "Whenever we got knocked down we kept getting back up and responding in a positive way. Hustle plays were huge for us. … That was a great win for us to clinch the series heading into the fourth game."
Three Rivers will try to carry this momentum into another region matchup, beginning a home-and-home series with St. Louis Community College. The four-game series will begin at 1 p.m. Thursday at St. Louis.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic