Big ninth-inning gives Campesinos victory over Mavericks

Sergio Rey scores one of the Campesinos five runs in the top of the ninth (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

The Campesinos have been atop the standings since the season started in May, and on Friday, July 23, they showed why they are considered the best team in the Mavericks League. 

With the score tied 4-4 in the top of the ninth, the Campesinos rallied for five runs in the final frame to defeat the Mavericks by a score of 9-4.

“I hate to keep using the word resilient, but that is what they are. The overwhelming factor for us is these guys never give up. They play every pitch, it doesn’t matter what the score is,” Campesinos manager Daniel Robertson said. “They are comfortable in close games, and that is what it comes down to. A team that is a championship team has got to win the close ones.”

The Campesinos scored a pair of runs in the top of the second to grab the advantage early on. Back-to-back singles from Collin Runge and Trevor Morrison to start the frame put the Campesinos in business. Even though Runge was caught attempting to steal third, a double down the right field line by Eric Whitfield scored Morrison from second and gave the Campesinos a 1-0 lead.

With Whitfield on second and two outs in the frame, Drew Bayard lifted a high but shallow fly ball into center field. After making a poor read on the ball, Mavericks center fielder Alex Emerson tried making a diving catch, but came up empty handed as Bayard’s RBI-bloop pushed the Campesinos lead to 2-0.

The Campesinos extended their advantage to 4-0 in the top of the fourth thanks to a pair of errors from the Mavericks.

Campesinos pitcher Eli Fultz cruised through the Mavericks lineup in the first three innings without giving up a hit. But in the bottom of the fourth, the Mavericks began to chip away at the Campesinos lead.

Joce Phelan broke up the no-no with a hard-hit single to right field. Two batters later, Drake Zarate punched a base hit into center field. The ball was misplayed by the center fielder, Bayard, which allowed Phelan to come around and score the first Mavericks run of the contest.

Sam Lauderdale knocked a seeing-eye RBI-single into left field later in the inning to trim the deficit to 4-2.

However, after giving up two runs in the fourth, Fultz pitched a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom of the fifth. He finished the game with nine strikeouts and gave up two runs and six hits over five innings.

“He was commanding his pitches and pounding the zone,” Robertson said. “Eli has been getting better and better every outing. He has been one of those guys that has taken every opportunity in stride.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Robertson elected to take his starter out after 79 pitches and put in reliever Andrew Baxter, who surrendered two runs in the frame and allowed the Mavericks to tie the game at 4-4 on RBI-hits by Lauderdale and Andrew Castano.

But despite going scoreless in four consecutive innings, the Campesinos saved their best for last in their final at-bats of the contest.

The Mavericks brought their usually reliable closer Travis Edgar to face the bottom half of the Campesinos order. But Edgar was abnormally wild early in his appearance and issued two walks and beamed a batter to load the bases with nobody out.

A flare off Joseph Nunn’s broken bat plated a pair of runs to make the score 6-4. Then, after a sacrifice bunt by Nick Ybarra and an intentional walk issued to Patrick Chung, Bayard wound up scoring on a wild pitch to make the score 7-4.

“We don’t play a lot of small-ball but they were ready to do it,” Roberton said. “And that set us up for a couple more runs.”

Runge added on to the rally with his third hit of the game, a two-run single to give the Campesinos even more insurance.

“They put some really good at-bats together and they just stayed with their approach,” Robertson said.

The Campesinos ended up getting the series sweep against the Mavericks to give themselves a four-game lead in the standings.

“We do look at (the standings), but at the end of the day, we can only control what we control. We are more focused on coming out and playing ball,” Robertson said. “We just need to keep finding ways to win.”

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]