Down by five runs after the first half inning of the game the Joplin Outlaws made readily apparent that for the Mustangs to win, they would have to earn it.
Bolstered by timely surges of success at the plate, including two consecutive home runs in the fourth inning, the Mustangs were able to earn an 11-8 victory over the Outlaws on Friday at Phil Welch Stadium.
Mustangs (26-9, 20-7 MINK) manager Johnny Coy commended his team’s ability to respond following that initial explosion from the Outlaws (18-14, 12-13 MINK).
“We got down, gave up five in the first and two in the second. I just took a look at the guys and they didn’t panic, they were as confident as ever,” Coy said. “I just knew we were gonna be able to come back. We got some great swings, some great pitches to hit. It let us come back like that.”
The Mustangs scored four runs in the first to keep them in a game that could have easily gotten out of hand. In the fourth, they benefited from an unusual occurence to tie up the game when catcher Jordan Maxson and first baseman Karl Koerper hit two home runs in consective at bats to cover the three run deficit.
Koerper, the Mustangs’ team leader in home runs with nine, described the friendly competition that inspired his solo encore to Maxson’s two RBI strike. .
“(Jordan Maxson) and I have kind of had a little home run race this whole season, so y’know, he hits one and that puts it on me,” Koerper said. “I got a fastball inside and was able to put a good swing on it.”
Both teams scored singular runs in the sixth before the Mustangs took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the seventh.
In a game so well-fought throughout, the Mustangs eventual game-winning inning came easily. In a sequence that saw the Mustangs score three times off of a a pair of wild pitches and a fielding error, Coy attributed those crucial go-ahead runs to his team’s previous prowess at the plate.
“We put a lot of pressure on the opposing pitchers and wear them down.They were trying to make pitches, when we have guys scoring off balls so often they were trying to paint the corners a little bit more,” Coy said. “Maybe they weren’t worrying about throwing strikes, or trying to be too perfect.”
The Outlaws offense stagnated, and relief pitcher Jake Purl obliterated any hopes of a late miracle for Joplin with three strikeouts in the final inning.
Four games ahead of the next MINK North team in the standings, the Mustangs are looking forward to seeing how the season ends.
“Everybody’s really excited, we’ve been able to play good baseball all year long,” Koerper said. “We can capitalize on other team’s mistakes, and the energy is really up right now.”
The Mustangs will face the Outlaws again tonight, 7 p.m. at Phil Welch Stadium.