By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Anderson baseball coach Terry Turner calls it a slug bunt, and junior Luke McConnaughey’s ability to execute it made the difference in the Tribe’s come-from-behind 9-5 victory against Alexandria on Monday at Memorial Field.
“It’s something we practice,” Turner said of the play that ignited a six-run sixth-inning rally. “And the reason we practice it is we want to do it in bunt situations.”
Against the Tigers, that situation came up with runners on first and second and nobody out in the sixth. Anderson trailed 5-3, and conventional wisdom held Turner would call for a bunt to move the tying runs to second and third.
Indeed, McConnaughey squared around to bunt on the first pitch, but he waved through an offering well above his eyes. When McConnaughey squared around again before the second delivery, Alexandria first baseman Owen Young charged down the baseline in anticipation. Second baseman Jesse Gossett moved in behind Young to cover the bag, and McConnaughey suddenly pulled his bat back and slapped the ball through the hole Gossett had just vacated.
Eddie Boner came around to score from second, and sophomore Anthony Fuller followed with an RBI single to tie the game.
McConnaughey later scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch, and senior Peyton Newsom’s second triple of the game brought home two more runs. Senior Jake Fox tacked on an RBI single to complete the scoring.
“I told the guys that (slug bunt) was the biggest play of the game for us because Luke executed it,” Turner said.
The late rally made a loser of Alexandria senior Derek Dinehart, who looked for much of the evening as though he intended to avenge the Tigers’ 16-0 loss at Memorial in the second round of the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament.
Dinehart surrendered just four hits through the first five innings and had a lead because of an opportunistic offense.
The Tigers (11-6) got two runs off Anderson starter Grant Bramwell in the third inning off just two hits. Alexandria scored on a double play and a fielding error, taking advantage of two walks and infield singles by Isaac Mitchell and Jacob Fox.
Alexandria’s Fox finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored from the lead-off spot.
“The kids played well,” Tigers coach Jeff Closser said. “We battled, and we had them on the ropes until the sixth inning. Then their bats took over.”
Anderson got one run back in the bottom of the fourth when Newsom tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by teammate Fox. But Alexandria immediately responded with a three-run fifth.
Dinehart hit a sacrifice fly, and Gossett and Blaze Kelly followed with RBI singles to put the Tigers in front 5-1. The inning might have ended without any runs crossing the plate, but Fuller couldn’t handle an outstanding throw at the plate from right fielder Newsom on Dinehart’s sacrifice.
Anderson scored twice in the bottom of the frame when Newsom walked with the bases loaded and Fox hit another sacrifice fly. Newsom finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs, and Fox was 1-for-2 with three RBIs. Leadoff hitter Curtis Wilson went 2-for-3, including a double in the third inning.
“They’re reliable hitters,” Turner said. “You just know they’re going to hit the ball hard.”
Anderson also got a boost from the bottom of the order. No. 8 hitter McConnaughey walked twice before his big slug bunt, scored twice and drove in a run. And No. 9 hitter Fuller had a fifth-inning double before his RBI single tied the game in the sixth.
Alexandria starts an important Central Indiana Conference stretch today against Eastbrook. The Tigers also face Oak Hill on Thursday and Madison-Grant on May 14. At 3-1, Alexandria can earn at least a share of the CIC crown by sweeping all three contests.
Anderson (11-3) starts back-to-back games against North Central Conference rival Richmond today. And Closser said the Red Devils are in for a fight.
“Anderson’s tough to beat,” he said. “They’ve got a good squad.”