By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — PENDLETON — Thursday night's regular season game at Bill Stoudt Field lacked the artistry of Saturday's Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament final at Memorial Field. But the rivalry rematch between Pendleton Heights and Anderson retained all of its drama.
The Arabians (8-4) rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat the Indians 10-9 and run their winning streak to seven games.
"It's always interesting when you get Anderson and Pendleton together," Pendleton Heights coach Travis Keesling said. "We'll take the ugly ones just as much as we take the pretty ones."
The Tribe (3-6) took a 9-7 lead in the top of the eighth inning on a two-run homer by Anthony Fuller, but it didn't hold up long when the bottom of the frame began.
Austin MacMillan led off with a single and advanced to second base on a passed ball. Nate Grile then laced a hard grounder that seemed destined for right field, but Anderson second baseman Tony Bova dove and kept it in the infield. MacMillan rounded third and appeared to be a sitting duck at home plate. But Bova's throw hit the dirt and bounced high over Fuller's head in front of the plate, allowing the run to score.
Grile advanced to second on the error and scored after another miscue. Hunter Cook's grounder went straight back to pitcher Braden Odom, but his throw to third in an attempt to get Grile bounced into foul territory down the left field line, and the Arabian runner scored to tie the game.
"I thought we fought really well. We just couldn't catch a break," Anderson coach Terry Turner said. "We should've had an out at the plate, but the ball just bounced away. We just couldn't catch a break."
Cook wound up at second base on the Indians' fifth and final error, and Cody Cochran was sent in as a pinch-runner. Turner ordered an intentional walk to Thomas Hall, and Spencer McCool came to the plate.
After two strikes to start the at-bat, a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third. Turner called timeout to bring in a sixth infielder, positioning all six on the infield grass in an attempt to cut down a runner at the plate. McCool responded by lacing a line drive just past a leaping Bova for the game-winning single.
The junior slugger had flown out deep to right field in two previous at-bats with runners in scoring position, and he was determined to get a run home any way possible.
"I was kind of struggling hitting at first," McCool said. "I was hitting it hard, but I was hitting it right at people. I knew my teammates would back me up, and I had confidence in myself. I've been in those situations before, and I knew what I had to do."
Anderson led 3-0 after the first inning on the strength of RBI-singles from Julius Neal and Fuller. The Arabians got two runs back on RBI-singles by Grile and Cook in the third and took a 6-3 lead with the help of a two-run single by MacMillan and another RBI-single from Cook in the fourth.
The Tribe tied the game with RBI-singles by Bova, Austin Chapman and Odom in the fifth and went back in front on an RBI-single by Tyler Welch in the sixth. Justin Kirkpatrick's sacrifice fly in the seventh tied the game 7-7 and forced extra innings.
Anderson hosts Connersville for a doubleheader Saturday that will include the season debut of top pitchers Jerred Quarterier and Grant Bramwell. Pendleton Heights travels to Yorktown for a Hoosier Heritage Conference doubleheader tonight.
The rally against the Indians marked the second straight comeback victory for the Arabians, but the slow starts are raising a warning flag.
"We're finding a way to pull out wins," said Keesling, who improved to 10-0 against Madison County opposition in two seasons at Pendleton Heights. "But we're coming up on the meat of our schedule, conference-wise. If we don't find a way to clean some of these things up, our conference teams might not let us back in it."