Cats have nine lives, right? Well, the Smith-Cotton Tigers used up about three of those lives in a dramatic, come-from-behind 11-9 victory over the Harrisonville Wildcats Friday night in the West Central Missouri Baseball Tournament at Dey Field at Liberty Park Stadium.
It wasn’t until after S-C second baseman Stephen Bradbury leaped high to snare a line drive that appeared headed toward right field and doubled a Wildcat runner off first to end the game that the S-C fans could finally breathe a sigh of relief as the Tigers emerged with the win.
The game-ending twin killing made a winner of Tiger senior submarine pitcher Austin Bullerd, who threw nearly four flawless innings of relief after S-C’s Ian Dotson was raked for five runs in the third and left trailing 9-4. Dotson came on in relief of Tiger starter Dominic Zerilli to start the third but retired only one hitter before Tiger Coach Jeff Mays brought Bullerd in to shut the door.
Bullerd ran into trouble in the bottom of the seventh. After S-C had rallied from a 9-4 deficit with seven unanswered runs to take an 11-9 lead, Harrisonville’s first batter in the seventh whistled a single to center and stole second and moved over to third when the next Wildcat batter reached on a Tiger error to put runners at the corners with no outs.
Bullerd retired the next hitter on a comebacker to the mound, and then Bradbury saved the day and the game with his leaping catch and doubled the runner off first.
S-C had to rally from behind twice in the game to improve to 4-5 on the season.
Zerilli worked around a walk, an error and a hit in the first inning to keep the Wildcats off the board and S-C led 1-0 after one inning.
The base on balls rose up and bit Zerilli in the second as he walked the bases loaded. Two hits, an error, a wild pitch and a fourth walk in the frame allowed the Wildcats to plate four runs and take a 4-1 lead.
S-C rallied from behind in the top of the third, plating four runs on an error, RBI singles by Cole Simoncic and Dalton Zaremba and an RBI groundout by Bradbury to retake the lead 5-4.
The Wildcats, who outslugged Holden 20-10 in an earlier game Friday evening, got to Dotson for five runs in the bottom half of the third to take command 9-5.
Did S-C have another rally left in the tank? You bet they did.
With the submarine-style Bullerd on to pitch for S-C in the third, the Tigers began to chip away as Bullerd stifled the Wildcat bats.
S-C sent 11 hitters to the plate in the fifth and paraded four runs across the plate to tie it 9-9.
Aaron Dieckman drove in a run with a hit in two trips to the plate in the frame. Chance McMullin singled in a run, as did Dakota Brown and Simoncic. Harrisonville committed two errors in the inning and Wildcat starter Landon Hern walked two Tiger hitters.
S-C came up with the winning run on a single by Simoncic in the top of the seventh, as S-C took the lead for good at 10-9. The Tigers plated an insurance run in the seventh when Dotson reached on an error and Austin Hoffman slid across the platen in a cloud of dust.
Things got a little tense in the bottom of the seventh when Harrisonville got runners aboard at the corners with no outs. But a comebacker to the mound and Bradbury’s double play ended it with a Tiger win.
In earlier tournament games, S-C let a 3-1 lead slip away in a 6-5 loss to Pleasant Hill Wednesday and then walloped the Belton Pirates 13-2 on Thursday. S-C took on Fox High School of St. Louis in their final game of the four-day, 14-team tournament Saturday.