FT. BRANCH --- Sora Kashiwagi’s seventh-inning bloop single sent Gibson Southern to an 11-10 non-conference home walkoff win over Mount Carmel on Thursday.
With runners at second and third and two outs, Kashiwagi hit a high-arching delivery off Golden Aces’ reliever Logan Durham that fell inches in front of a diving effort by Mount Carmel center fielder Hunter Fuller. Pinch-runner Justin Brown came home to score the Titans’ game-winning run.
“It was a good ballgame,” said Gibson Southern head coach Chris May, who watched his team improve to 6-7 this season. “(Mount Carmel) came back, and there were some pitches here-and-there that we didn’t get, but there were also a couple balls that dropped in for us.”
The Titans led 6-1 after two innings before the Golden Aces scored seven runs in the third to take an 8-6 lead. Gibson Southern surged back ahead 10-8 with a three-run third and an important tally in the fifth. Mount Carmel fought to tie the game at 10 with a pair of runs in the seventh.
Despite the loss, Golden Aces head coach Shea Smith saw some encouraging signs from his team, which lost its fifth straight game.
“We have had a long week because we haven’t been like we are capable, making silly errors, but from the third inning on, we became a team again,” said Smith, whose team fell to 3-10 overall. “When you play good teams, you have to battle them, and we did that.”
Mount Carmel entered Thursday having been outscored 51-6 in its previous four games, all of them losses by the 10-run rule.
The Titans led 2-0 after one inning as Andrew Smith walked and scored on a wild pitch, while Kashiwagi was safe when his sacrifice bunt was thrown away for an error. Mitchell Splinder’s RBI single plated Kashiwagi.
Fuller trimmed the Golden Aces’ deficit to 2-1 in the second by reaching on an infield error that chased home Bret Doan, who led off the inning with a walk.
Gibson Southern increased its lead to 6-1 in the home half of the second, when Smith’s RBI single fell into center field, Dimitri Dewig and Dakota Rogers both scored on a passed ball and Kashiwagi’s single up the middle plated Smith.
Mount Carmel unleashed a seven-spot in the third behind six hits in the inning. Evan Kieffer ripped a two-run double to the gap in right-center field to chase home Jorge Mercado and Jake Hocking before Blake Kight’s single to left field plated Kieffer.
Fuller added an RBI single to chase home Durham to make it 6-5 before the Golden Aces’ leadoff-hitter Mercado lined a two-run single just over an outstretched glove at second base and Aden Gill came home on a double steal with Mercado.
The Titans rallied for a 9-8 advantage in the third, when Smith hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Jacob Fireline and Kashiwagi reached on an error that sent home Smith and Dewig.
Smith drove in his third run of the game in the fifth, plating Dewig for a 10-8 Gibson Southern lead.
Reliever Payton Boyd, who blanked the Mount Carmel offense in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, allowed the first two Golden Aces to reach in the seventh. Dewig came to the mound, but watched Mount Carmel get the game-tying runs on Adam Stoneberger’s bases-loaded fielder’s choice and Mercado’s infield single.
“Payton did a nice job in relief for us. We were a little worried about sending him back out there for one more inning, but (assistant coach) Jesse (Simmons) was happy with his effort So, we stayed with him,” May said. “Dimitri did a fine job of holding them down.”
The Titans travel to play Boonville at 5 p.m. today, while Mount Carmel hosts Carmi-White County at 4:30 p.m. today.