WAYNESVILLE – Tied at six-all in the top of the seventh, Waynesville's starting pitcher Zach York (Sr.) had the opposing St. James hitters right where he wanted them, but couldn't quite finish what he started.
With a single defensive out remaining in the contest, York staggered on the mound, walking the bases loaded and presenting a golden opportunity for St. James early Monday evening.
On a 3-2 count, York delivered ball four – on pitch number 130 – to the St. James hitter for a 7-6 lead.
Waynesville coach Scott Turner then turned to freshman pitcher Ryan Pendleton to finish the game, but the youngster also struggled, walking two batters for runs and allowing a hit to push St. James ahead 10-6.
"Tied 6-6 we were wanting to ride out Zach, he just got into trouble," Turner said.
It seemed Turner's Tigers were going down in the final stanza for yet another time this season after falling to Marshfield and Rolla in the seventh inning earlier this year.
Throughout the contest the Waynesville coach urged his team to "find a way" to score in each inning, and with only three outs remaining it was do or die time.
Trey Simpson (Fr.) led off the lineup with a single, then advanced to second on a wild pitch and again to third before shortstop Ethan Howser (Sr.) dropped an RBI single in front of the St. James centerfielder to get Waynesville within three.
St. James then walked a batter to put two runners on and bring the potential tying run to the plate in outfielder Dylan Newcomb (Sr.).
The three-sport athlete nailed a line-drive double down the third base line, a ball that rolled all the way to the foul pole, for a two RBI double with no outs.
St. James then walked another batter, bringing Will Arganda (Sr.) to the plate for a pinch hit opportunity.
Arganda rolled a sacrifice bunt down the first base line to move the go-ahead run into scoring position and Newcomb to third.
Another St. James walk loaded the bases, prompting Turner to make back-to-back gutsy decisions.
Justin Wagner (Sr.) stepped into the batter's box and acknowledged his coach's signal to lay down a bunt – a suicide squeeze attempt. As the pitch approached the plate, Newcomb charged home plate before Simpson rolled the ball down the line for an RBI, tying the score at 10-all.
"Our success rate on that [play] is about 70 percent this year," Turner reasoned. "I figured we had one out and needed one run and we can get that done."
Next up was Trent Simpson (Jr.), who received the same suicide squeeze call. Again, the infielder rolled the ball up the middle, just far enough to score a sprinting Sam Nevinger (Sr.).
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"It's nice to have a comeback win for a change," a grinning Turner said. "The bad news is, if our defense plays better, we win that game, no question."
Waynesville battled back to take an 11-10 victory after the high-scoring skirmish.
Other key plays came from Howser and Eriq Kristek (Sr.) who each delivered two-run home runs in the first and fifth innings, respectively.
For St. James, first baseman Troy Parker finished 3-for-3 with a single, double, home run and a free pass.
York threw 6.2 innings, giving up 10 runs (four earned) on seven hits, while fanning 14 and walking five.
Monday's contest with St. James was the first of four games in four days, including games versus Parkview, at Glendale, then at home against Kickapoo – all Ozark Conference opponents.
Waynesville (5-14) will play Ozark Conference opponent Glendale on Wednesday. The previous contest was rescheduled twice before the teams scheduled to play Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Springfield.
"Any game is a winnable game as long as you throw strikes, play defense and put the ball in play," Turner said enthusiastically.
After the team battled adversity Monday, anything is possible from this point on.
Trent Simpson will start for Waynesville on Wednesday.
[Waynesville game stats: WP – Ryan Pendleton (0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB); E. Howser, 3-for-4 (HR, 2 1B, 3 RBI, 3 R), E. Kristek, 2-for-3 (HR, 3 RBI, 2 R); J. Wagner, 2-for-4 (2B, RBI).
[St. James game stats were not submitted.]