After Game 2 of the MINK League title game, Jake VanVacter was drenched in water by his team. The celebration can’t last long.
The Mustangs advanced in the MINK League Championship series, after they defeated the Ozark Generals 4-1 to keep their season alive for one more matchup to determine the MINK’s 2017 title winner.
Mustangs manager Matt Johnson was encouraged by the team’s overall performance.
“We played really well last night, especially having given up a lead late in the game. Offensively we put some balls in play today and took advantage of mistakes,” Johnson said. “It was a really good overall team game.”
Before the game, Johnson got his jersey retired. He said enough of the sad stuff, they had to go win a baseball game.
And that’s exactly what they did.
Following a devastating collapse against the Generals in the first game of the series in which the Mustangs’ defense gave up four runs in the ninth to seal the loss, the Mustangs entered the top of the ninth in their second game with a nearly identical lead.
Thankfully for the Mustangs and their fans, Ozark was facing a different Mustangs team that was emboldened by the support of its home crowd.
“Our confidence being at home helps a ton. When you’re in a situation on the road when you give up a couple of base hits things start to creep in on you,” said Johnson, who will retire from the Mustangs after the season. “Tonight it was a different level of confidence from our guys being able to play in front of our crowd.”
Through the game’s first three innings, neither team was able to muster much of any offense, amassing a combined total of only four hits.
The fourth inning saw some offensive production from the Mustangs, as a broken bat single from first baseman Josh Williams ran in Brady Anderson and a wild pitch gave Williams an opportunity to extend the Mustangs lead to 2-0.
An Ozark run in the top of the sixth was answered with a two-RBI double with bases loaded from Easton Fortuna to give his team a three-run lead.
It wouldn’t be the last spectacular play from Fortuna, however. To put the Generals away, Fortuna made a diving catch on a grounder to second and hit Williams at first base for a photo-finish putout.
“It’s was a huge play,” Johnson said of Fortuna’s effort. “Situationally, late in the ball game, one base-runner gives them a little bit of momentum, and that play by Fortuna really squashed any opportunity they would have to score a run in that situation.”
VanVacter finished his complete game with a strikeout in the final inning and a fly-out, extending the Mustangs’ season by one more game.
“There’s a confidence we have in each other that no matter who’s up, somebody’s going to get the job done for us,” said Johnson. “We’re extremely confident. We’ve got momentum and we have to continue that momentum to bring another championship to St. Joseph.”
And tonight, they’ll have a chance. Game 3, the final matchup of the season and the final of Johnson’s Mustangs coaching career, begins at 7 p.m.