When the slow ground ball left Josh Jones’ bat, Decatur’s Cain Lowe took a gamble and raced home from third base.
“I thought it was a slow-hit ball and it would have to be a perfect throw to get me, so I took my chances,” Lowe said.
The gamble paid off as Lowe crossed the plate ahead of the throw and tag of Bridgeport catcher Mason Baker to give the Decatur Eagles the 9-8 victory over the Bulls in nine innings at Eagle Field Tuesday.
“We had to overcome a little adversity, but we stuck together as a team and got the win,” said Lowe, who went 1-for-5 with his lone hit a single to lead off the ninth.
The victory extended Decatur’s winning streak to five games and put them at .500 for the season at 9-9-2.
Decatur rallied from a 3-0 deficit and took a 7-3 lead. But the Eagles could not hold it and fell behind 8-7 going into the bottom of the seventh. A Bridgeport error allowed Nick Trachta to get on base, then he stole home when Baker threw to first to complete a strikeout, sending the game to extra innings.
“We were real fortunate tonight,” said Decatur coach Chris Carter. “We did not play our best baseball. But the kids kept working and going one pitch and one at-bat at a time.”
It was not a crisp game for Bridgeport, either. The Bulls committed four errors and failed to execute several sacrifice bunts in another close loss.
“This is our 13th one-run loss,” said Bridgeport coach Ted Leps. “We’re giving ourselves a chance to win. We’re just not able to do the simple things – execute a rundown, not putting a bunt down.”
Bridgeport’s final error proved costly as freshman relief pitcher James Gray had Lowe, who led off the ninth with a single, picked off first. In the rundown, the ball got away from the Bulls, allowing the speedy Lowe to reach third.
“I got the sign from coach to steal and got too anxious,” Lowe said. “I got lucky they happened to throw it away.”
Gray took the loss after four and two-thirds of work, allowing just two hits and two unearned runs. He took over for Alex Samples in the middle of the fifth after the starter allowed six hits and four earned runs.
“For a freshman to come into that situation, he did a great job,” Leps said. “He got the ground ball he needed at the end. We didn’t make the play.”
Bridgeport jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third with a two-run single to left-center field by Erik Delgadillo, who went 3-for-5, and a run-scoring groundout by Daniel Garcia.
The Eagles erased the Bulls’ lead in the fourth inning. After Christian Carrillo worked a one-out walk, AJ Johnson, Drew Edwards and Clayton Egle followed with singles. Austin Givens then put the Eagles ahead with a two-run triple into the left-center field gap.
“His bat is coming around and he hit some balls hard tonight that were outs,” Carter said about Givens.
Givens also made five putouts in center field, including his diving catch to rob Bridgeport’s Dalton Hudson of a hit in the fifth inning.
“He made some fantastic plays in the outfield,” Carter said.
Decatur added three runs in the bottom of the fifth, taking advantage of a pair of walks, a balk and an error. Egle drove in one of the runs with a double to right to make it 7-3.
But that lead was not safe. Bridgeport plated three in the top of the sixth, including two on bases-loaded walks issued by Egle.
Egle threw five and one-third, allowing six runs – two earned – with two walks and four strikeouts.
Carter gave the ball to Mason Baur, who got the final two outs of the inning and kept Decatur ahead 7-6.
Baur, who won the game March 21 over Krum, pitched the final three and two-thirds Tuesday, allowing two runs on two hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
Bridgeport scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to grab the 8-7 lead. Gray executed a squeeze but to bring home Samples. Then Garcia scored on a balk to give the Bulls the short-lived advantage.