MILLEDGEVILLE – Blake Kappes had to feel like he tripped over the cord, killing the power at his own birthday party.
But the newly turned 16-year-old shrugged off a costly error – and a clunky first inning in Game 2 – to preserve a doubleheader split against AFC on Monday in Milledgeville.
The Missiles' sophomore let a Paul Rod ground ball – and a tailor-made double-play ball – skitter between his legs during the Raiders' two-run bottom of the sixth, keying a 9-8 NUIC West victory for AFC.
"We might've gotten both today, if I didn't have that bad error," Kappes admitted. "I had to respond in the second game, and I feel like I did."
Suffice to say that feeling was validated by the numbers: a complete-game win, allowing three earned runs on four hits and striking out eight in a 10-4 split-saving victory. He also went 2-for-3 with two runs scored in the nightcap after going 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI in the opener.
"Blake's one of the smartest players we have," Milledgeville coach Kyle Knutti said. "I see big things from him."
"I'm very proud of him," said Jordan Harris, who also had some cobwebs to shake off after committing four errors in the opener. "I tried talking to him and hope he didn't hang his head. He came back."
After an error-riddled Game 1, the second began with AFC (4-7, 2-6) scoring two runs in the top of the first, one of them unearned. The Raiders got three hits in the opening frame, but Tyler Shugars' RBI knock in the top of the third that made it 3-1 was AFC's last hit of the game. Shugars went 5-for-7 on the day with three of AFC's nine RBIs.
"I just block everything out and concentrate on the ball," Shugars said. "I try to stay relaxed and calm so I can see ball, hit ball."
In the bottom half, Kappes' cavalry arrived.
Kameron DawTyne, who took a no-decision in Game 1, laced a single to center. Kappes absorbed a pitch before Devin Biller walked. Two batters later, with two outs, Harris spanked a liner to left to plate two. Andrew Wiersema stayed back on an Andrew LeFevre curveball and served it to left to plate Biller before Caleb Skoog singled home two more runs and chased LeFevre (1-1).
After AFC reliever Graye Freeman struck out the side in the fifth, the Missiles (6-8, 4-7) added four more in the sixth, including Harris' third and fourth RBIs on a single to right, before the Raiders stole a run – literally, with LeFevre taking home on a blown pickoff play – in the seventh.
Milledgeville jumped out front 2-0 in the first game before AFC plated five unearned runs in the bottom of the second. After needing just five pitches in the first inning, DawTyne needed 40 to escape the second.
The opener featured two baseball rarities – Biller recording two assists in the same inning in center field and DawTyne striking out four batters in a single inning.
Biller nearly made a sliding catch on a sinking Anthony Gendusa line drive, but was able to corral the ball and throw out Brandyn Ibarra as he tried to take third. On the next play, Biller threw out Gendusa at second on Gage Parks' line-drive single to center.
Parks would have his revenge.
With Shugars aboard with a single and two batters having struck out in the bottom of the fifth, DawTyne fanned Gendusa on a wild pitch, allowing him to reach safely. Parks tattooed the very next pitch down the right-field line and just deep enough to tip off the glove of a leaping Keagan Murray. It drove in both runners and put AFC up 7-6. DawTyne punched out Blake Murphy for his fourth K of the frame.
Milledgeville got even in the top of the sixth before AFC got two in the bottom half, the first on Kappes' error. He made amends by starting a 6-4-3 double play, but Shugars capped a 3-for-4 game with a Texas-League single to left that plated Rod.
"After the double play, I just thought, 'Oh crap, I gotta hit this and come through here,'" Shugars said.
Skoog drove in Harris in the seventh and, with two outs, Doug Williams singled and Murray was hit by a pitch, but DawTyne grounded out to first to end the threat. The teams combined for 12 errors, and the one-run margin magnified the mistakes, in Knutti's mind.
"I think we kicked around the ball more than they did in the first game," he said. "That's all it was. We both kicked it around. I just hate to waste a good pitching performance, and we hit the ball better than we have in a long time."
Star of the set: Blake Kappes, Milledgeville, CG win, 4 H, 3 ER, 8 SO in Game 2 … also went combined 4-for-7, 4 R, RBI
Key performer: Tyler Shugars, AFC, 5-for-7, 2 R, 3 RBI; Jordan Harris, Milledgeville, 3-for-4, 3 R, 4 RBI, 2 SB in Game 2
Up next: Milledgeville at Dakota, 4:30 p.m. today; Forreston-Polo at AFC, 4:30 p.m. Thursday