Dominick Busby was all smiles after letting a five-run lead slip away Monday.
The Central senior and his team lifted the veil off 2013 in seesaw fashion. But the Indians made it out alive, and that was enough to have the shortstop/pitcher beaming.
“For right now, we’re still figuring out who we are,” Busby said, “so to get a win like that, it’s always positive.”
Infielder Jacob Gill’s feeble grounder finally put to rest an emphatic Lafayette comeback, allowing Central to escape hitter-friendly Bartlett Park with an 8-7 victory in the teams’ City Round Robin opener.
Central (1-0) survived a five-run top of the seventh, where the Fighting Irish (0-1) climbed out of a 7-2 hole to tie things up on Nate Byous’ RBI groundout. The Indians loaded the bases to open the
bottom of the inning, and Gill sent a short chopper off the inside part of his bat that Brad Grippando had no chance of collecting.
Busby came home on the play after blowing a sizable advantage he’d helped build.
“I came (into the dugout), talked to the guys and told them not to get tight,” said Busby, a two-year starter. “‘We just needed one run.
“They came through.”
Busby topped a dominant offensive performance for Central, going 3-for-4 and finishing a
triple short of the cycle. Nicholas Gutzmer and Busby smacked back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning to give the Indians a 5-2 lead, and Busby added to it a frame later with an RBI double down the third-base line.
Varsity newcomer Tyree Mayfield (2-for-4) hit Central’s third homer earlier in the fifth, the last of three straight two-run innings for the Indians. Playing with six stitches in his right leg after taking a cleat to it during preseason practice, Lafayette ace Jarrod Byous lasted five innings and gave up four earned runs on seven hits in his senior-year debut.
Busby relieved starter Joseph Tieman after an effective start — five innings, five hits and one earned run — and retired the side in the sixth. Central seemed in comfortable control of securing a leg up in its quest for a third straight Round Robin crown.
But Lafayette wasn’t finished, even after most of its chilled fans had headed for their vehicles.
“Obviously, you’d like your team to come out strong and just kill it,” said third-year Irish coach Jason Hale, who hasn’t overseen more than eight wins in a season. “But we showed a lot of guts coming back — hell, half the audience had already gone.”
Grippando, who also took over on the mound to start the sixth, forced Gutzmer to line out with two runners on base to end that inning. Brad Hiserote’s RBI double in the top of the seventh scored a run, Kylan Kuritz’s bases-loaded walk drawn brought home another, and Grippando got the Irish within 7-6 via a two-run single to left.
With one out on the board, Nate Byous then appeared to ground into a game-ending double play in the gap between first and second. Grippando was forced out, but the first-base umpire ruled that Nate Byous edged Gill’s throw from second to first base.
That allowed Kuritz to score from third, and both teams’ season opener was suddenly poised to last long into an increasingly cold night.
But Busby led off with an infield single — a high pop-up near third base that no Irish player could get under — and reached second on a wild pitch. Tieman then laid down a perfect bunt single to put runners at the corners, Lafayette intentionally walked Clinton Squires, and nine-hole hitter Gill stepped in and made enough contact to give Central the victory.
“Well, I know we don’t quit,” said a relieved Indians skipper Justin McCarthy. “I’m not disappointed. We showed me that we can compete in a tight ballgame. That’s what we use this for, is a learning experience for me and for (the players).”
The Indians, who claimed first in the 2010 and 2011 City Round Robins — last year’s was rained out — look to take firm control of the standings in a 4:30 p.m. matchup back at Bartlett against Bishop LeBlond, which also won Monday. Lafayette takes on archrival Benton at the same time at Phil Welch Stadium.
Bishop LeBlond 15, Benton 6
Bishop LeBlond’s bats apparently didn’t hibernate over the winter.
Coming off a Class 2 season where they scored 9.3 runs per game, the Eagles (1-0) pounded Benton to position themselves for the school’s first City Round Robin championship since the event’s 2002 inception.
To do it, they beat the team that’s won every city title but two.
Catcher Jonathan Zuptich led the onslaught, hitting 3-for-5 with four RBIs, a double and a triple. Tyler Thrasher (2-for-6) added three RBIs against Benton (0-1), which graduated 12 seniors from last season’s Midland Empire Conference co-champion Central (2010, 2011) is the only team besides Benton to take first in the Round Robin.
LeBlond broke open a 2-2 tie with a four-run fourth, then plated two or more runs each of the final four innings. The Eagles outhit the Cardinals 12-6.
Pitcher Matthew McCullough picked up the win, allowing four runs in five innings of work. Jordan Lopez took the loss for Benton.
Moving up to Class 3 this season in Missouri’s new five-classification alignment, LeBlond now takes on Class 5 Central with a chance at a big leg up in the City Round Robin standings.
All four teams are scheduled to be back in action Wednesday. Benton takes on Central, while LeBlond closes up against Lafayette. Both games are scheduled for 4:30 p.m., though there’s a chance Central and Benton will play at 4 p.m. Organizers said an official announcement regarding sites and times for the final day of games will be made Tuesday.