MILLEDGEVILLE – After six innings, the score between the Milledgeville Missiles and the River Ridge-Scales Mound Rockets was knotted up at two runs apiece.
Enter Blake Kappes.
The Milledgeville junior pitched a hitless top of the seventh in relief of starter Kameron DawTyne, then came up big at the plate in the latter half of the inning.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Kappes laced a line drive into the gap in right-center field to drive in the winning run in a 3-2 Missiles victory.
“I was thinking, ‘Just get on, get a base hit, maybe drive them in,’” Kappes said. “Do whatever I needed to do to get that run in. We really wanted to win this game. We’ve had a lot of errors the past couple games, and today we came out and played like we should have ... and that’s how we need to play every game.”
The game took on a different tone early on, as the Missiles were in a jam early. With runners on the corners, the Wildcats attempted a double-steal – but it was sniffed out by Milledgeville.
As the runner broke for second, catcher Caleb Skoog threw it to second, where Kappes quickly returned it to get the runner out at the plate. Skoog then alertly rocketed it to third, turning a double play to get out of the inning.
“That’s kind of a normal day for us,” said DawTyne. “We’re kind of a weird team, and it was just like another day at practice for us. We’re used to making plays like that and having fun, so it was comforting to know it was just like any other day.”
In the third, the Missiles tried the same thing, but actually succeeded. With Kappes on first base and Devin Biller on third, Wildcat pitcher Matt Basten was called for a balk when he stopped mid-motion after Kappes broke for second. Biller was awarded home.
“We have set first-and-third plays,” said Milledgeville coach Kyle Knutti. “That was called an early break, where our runner goes when the pitcher gets set to try and disrupt their rhythm. Kappes runs it phenomenal, and it’s actually the third time that we have scored on it this year.”
In the top of the fourth, RRSM answered with some small ball to take a 2-1 lead after four innings of play.
Milledgeville answered rather quickly.
Jordan Harris leadoff the fourth with a double, and advanced to third on a passed ball. Junior Keagan Murray then placed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt between the pitcher and first base to get Harris across the plate and tie it at 2.
“The last two nights that we’ve been out here, we hit the ball really well,” said Knutti. “We kind of got lazy and relaxed. But tonight we had to play a much tighter game, and I think it took us a while to kind of adjust to this kind of a game.”
Tough defense kept the game tied at two, and was highlighted by a diving catch in left from Biller that got the Missiles out of another jam. It saved a potential loss from DawTyne’s record, and the senior got a no-decision after pitching a gem. He went six innings, giving up only one earned run and six hits, while striking out seven and walking none.
“There’s definitely some things we need to work on,” said DawTyne. “We need to be more clean with the ball, we’re playing a little sloppy on defense, and that goes along with having too much fun. We’re comfortable with our playing level, and we want to continue at this pace and hopefully get some more wins.”
“We’re really confident,” added Kappes. “We think we could get past regionals and into sectionals. As far as errors go, as long as we keep them down, we will go as far as that.”