An infield single by centerfielder Benny Steffenson in the bottom of the ninth drove home the winning run as the Grove Ridgerunners moved to 8-0 on the season with a wild 7-6 win over Gravette, Ark. Thursday night at the Grove Sports Complex.
Steffenson’s dribbler to the left side of the infield was enough to drive home pinch runner Cole Sharp with the winning run with two outs. Sharp was running for starting catcher Justin Tesreau who, fittingly on a day when the two teams combined for eight errors, reached base when his fly ball to centerfield was dropped.
Tesreau eventually reached second on the error. Grove’s inning was then kept alive by a dropped third strike to Jake Spychalski with two outs. Spychalski reached first and Sharp third before Steffenson’s game-winner.
“Our kids never quit competing,” Grove head coach Bret Bouher said. “They keep battling and next you know we win another won.”
The Ridgerunners scored their first run of the day after their first two at-bats, when Ty Morrow led off the game with a double to right centerfield and was chased home by a Kaden Livermore single. Gibson Russ followed with a walk but the next three batters went down in order to put an end to a promising inning.
Grove would get two runners on in both the second and third innings, but couldn’t get the big hits they needed to break the game open against Gravette starter Aaron Means.
“We had some chances to score some runs early,” Bouher said. “Their starter wasn’t effective early; he was all over the place then once he got settled down he pitched pretty well. We didn’t have as many opportunities in the middle innings and we gave them a few because our defense was a little suspect.”
Those missed opportunities came back to bite the Ridgerunners in the fourth inning. Grove starter Ty Phillips gave up a pair of walks and a pair of hits over the first three innings, but a pair of infield errors put runners on first and third with one out in the top of the fourth. That’s when the Lions’ Braton Coffett blasted one over the centerfield wall to suddenly put Gravette on top 3-1.
After going down in order in the fourth the Ridgerunners would rally in the bottom of the fifth. Livermore picked up his second hit of the day with a one-hop double off the left field wall. That shot was followed by an even bigger blast as Gibson Russ pulled one over the rightfield wall to tie the score at three.
Three batters later, Spychalski would give the Ridgerunners the lead with a sacrifice fly to score Sharp, running for Tesreau after his double off the left field wall.
Gravette would tie the score in the top of the sixth with their third unearned run of the day and the game would eventually go to extra innings. A single and a pair of errors would give the Lions the lead with two runs in the eighth, but Steffenson and Phillips started a rally in the bottom of the inning with a single and a double with one out.
Kody Stephenson drove in one run with a grounder to second base, and an error at third base on a hard-hit ball by Morrow would tie the score.
Spychalski, now pitching in relief, would wriggle out of a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for the game-winner in the bottom of the inning.
“We’re going to have to get better on our infield defense, period, to be able to compete where we want to be,” Bouher said. “But we found a way to pull it out.”
The Ridgerunners will play again at home on Friday when they host Ketchum. A junior high game will start the day at 1:30, with the varsity game beginning at approximately 4 p.m.