Baseball: Winthrop slams door on Monmouth

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MONMOUTH — This wasn’t one of those major league, three-up, three-down, never-in-danger saves.

Tyler Reeve didn’t trot in from right field to the strains of a heavy metal anthem. He didn’t inherit a clean slate. Winthrop tiptoed the precipice before and after his grand entrance.

Reeve allowed two of his three inherited runners to score Wednesday afternoon, but he also retired three of the four hitters he faced to nail down the Ramblers’ 6-4 MVC win over Monmouth at Chick Memorial Field.

Trailing by four runs in the bottom of the seventh, Monmouth loaded the bases against Winthrop starter and eventual winner Ryan Conant.

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Jeremy Ashlock cranked a leadoff double. Mike Lent and Kyle Fletcher drew walks. Enter Reeve, a tall, hard-throwing right-hander.

“I didn’t want to think too much, because I didn’t want to make it worse,” Reeve said. “I was definitely trying to get the strikeout.”

Reeve rang up Brandon Goff for a huge out, painting the lower inside corner with a 3-2 offering.

Roger Bachelder followed with his second hit of the day to right center field. The Mustangs (9-4) could only get Ashlock home.

Blake Burnham plated Lent to make it a two-run game, but it came at the expense of a groundout to first, with Reeve covering.

Josh Fournier launched another payoff pitch deep to a fenceless center field. Drew Stratton camped under it to end it.

“(Reeve) does the job,” Winthrop coach Marc Fortin said. “He’s a pretty stoic kid.”

Winthrop (7-5) overcame an early 2-0 deficit with a run in the third and five in the sixth.

Conant reached on a throwing error with one out to trigger the go-ahead rally. He scored the tying run on another miscue, when a fielder’s choice to make the attempted force play at home drew catcher Billy Cummings off the plate.

Tyler Foster (2-for-4) followed Conant with a sharp hit to left, and Eric Duplessis scratched out an infield single. After Reeve’s grounder led to the tying run, Ryan Castonguay drew a bases-loaded walk against Kyle Fletcher to put the Ramblers in front.

Travis Luce greeted reliever Bachelder with a line-drive, RBI single off third baseman Fournier‘s glove. Designated hitter Connor Doyle’s base hit knocked home two more.

“One inning we didn’t make the plays behind (Fletcher). We took advantage of an error to score a couple, and then they took advantage of a couple errors in our inning and scored a bunch,” Monmouth coach Eric Palleschi said. “We had opportunities at the end. We didn’t capitalize on all our base running, and they capitalized on all our mistakes.”

Fletcher needed only 50 pitches to cruise through the first five innings.

Monmouth jumped in front 2-0 in the first, with assistance. Conant struck out two before Bachelder reached on an error. Burnham and Fournier exacted the toll with back-to-back RBI doubles.

The teams combined for seven errors, four by Winthrop.

“We played terrible those first two innings. Three balls hit in the infield and we booted every one of them,“ Fortin said. “It’s so discouraging for a pitcher. He could have got out of that inning 1-2-3, and next thing you know he was 20 pitches into it and trying to get the third out. But we stuck with it and chipped away.”

Winthrop got one back in the third. Travis Sherman‘s one-out single gave the Ramblers their initial base runner. Sherman scampered to second when the ball skipped past the left fielder. He scored on Conant’s single with two away.

Conant settled in and allowed only one hit between the first and seventh innings. He struck out eight and walked three.

“People are going to make physical mistakes. We knew we had to bounce back,” Conant said. “We knew we had the bats. We relied on them today.”

The win avenged a home loss two weeks ago and likely vaulted Winthrop past Monmouth into seventh in the Western Class C Heal Points. Seventh would be enough to avoid a preliminary-round game. The eighth-place team will host one.

Monmouth has two point-worthy games remaining: At St. Dom’s today, and Wiscasset next Tuesday.

koakes@sunjournal.com

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