Thoenen's sac fly wins extra inning duel

Thoenen's sac fly wins extra inning duel
Tyler Thoenen connects in the bottom of the eighth. His sacrifice fly drove in Jesse Fennewald with the game winner over Hannibal. [Eric Mattson]
Dave Faries

Tyler Thoenen says he knew what was coming and considered running. Instead he waited as a wave of Bulldogs pounced on him.

Thoenen’s one out fly to center unleashed the celebration. It was deep enough to allow Jesse Fennewald to tag from third with the winning run in a game that featured momentum swings, outstanding pitching on both sides and extra innings drama.
“That’s the most nervous I’ve ever been,” Thoenen said.

The sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth gave the Bulldogs a 5-4 win over Hannibal. But for six innings it looked as if Mexico had full control of the game.

The Bulldogs jumped on Pirates starter Tanner VanWinkle in the first. Ty Prince singled, advancing to second on an error. Daeye Miller drove a base hit to center, scoring Prince. Landon Kleinsorge reached base on a fielder’s choice, Andrew Runge followed with a hit.

A passed ball brought Runge home after a Thoenen single drove in Kleinsorge.

The fourth and final run of the inning was engineered on the base paths by Quayvon Belcher. After drawing a walk, he scampered toward second while the pitcher stood on the mound, holding the ball.

“I thought he threw it, so I took off running,” Belcher explained.

There was no cunning involved, but it worked. When VanWinkle spun and tossed to second, Thoenen headed home.

Staked to a 4-0 lead, Mexico hurler Josh Forbis settled in. He struck out Hannibal’s Keaton Scott with the bases loaded to get out of a first inning jam. In the second, a double play with two on ended Pirates’ threat.

“I can’t thank my defense enough,” Forbis said. “The first two innings I was not myself.”

After conceding a run in the third after a lead off double by Pirates center fielder Drake Dudley, Forbis coaxed the next three hitters into harmless ground balls. He gave up just one more hit until pulled at the end of six due to pitch count requirements.

But after his shaky opening frame, VanWinkle silenced Mexico bats. It was a 4-2 game going into the seventh.

Kleinsorge came on in relief and pitched well, but was betrayed by two Bulldog errors. The Pirates pushed two runs across to tie the game. And damage could have been worse, but for an outstanding recovery by Belcher on a deep ball to left with one out and two on.

“I thought it was routine, but it kept going,” he said. The previous inning Belcher’s arm had nipped a potential Hannibal rally, catching Charlie Culp attempting to go for two on a base hit.

Belcher singled to open the bottom of the seventh and his antics on the base paths drew a balk. Tristan Playter sacrificed him to third, but Mexico could not get the game winner – yet.

Will Dobyns took the mound and sent the Pirates down in order, setting up the final dramatics.

Fennewald reached base on an infield error. Miller and Runge beat out infield hits, loading the bases for Thoenen.

The pitch was a fastball, waist high over the middle of the plate.

“He set it on a platter for me,” Thoenen said.


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