'In' crowd lifts Bombers to cusp of titleJuly 28, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
HUNTINGBURG — The Roman Trujillo-to-Craig Shepherd double plays. The Camdon Mercier single that turnedinto a four-base dash around the diamond thanks to some defensive hiccups. The screaming single from Zack Gray in the bottom of the eighth inning to start a late rally that would add an insurance run RBI from Jordan Libman.
Good things seemed to originate from the four starting infielders for the Dubois County Bombers in Friday night’s 4-2 victory over the Hoptown Hoppers in Game 1 of the Ohio Valley League championship series.
It started in the very first inning after Taylor Fought laced a ground ball to Trujillo, who quickly flipped it to Shepherd, who then relayed a perfect throw to Gray at first base to prevent an early Hoptown run. It was one of four double plays the Bombers turned to prevent the West Division’s No. 1 seed from gathering any momentum.
“Double plays are a pitcher’s best friend,” said Shepherd, the former Jasper High School standout whose Bomber team can clinch the OVL postseason title with a win tonight when the series shifts to Hoptown for Game 2. “That’s our job out there to make those plays, and it showed tonight how well we really meshed together.”
Trujillo, who’s from La Mesa, New Mexico, and plays his college ball at New Mexico State, said arriving at Huntingburg at the beginning of the summer was a substantial culture shock — especially adjusting to not having a plethora of fast food or late-night options like he was used to having in his hometown.
But Trujillo said the connection with Shepherd was crafted thanks to their background playing shortstop in high school and college.
“I think how much we love fielding has helped build the connection between us. Plus, he’s just a really good guy and a good person. I liked him from the start,” Trujillo said. “I also learned that no matter what position you’re at, if you play hard you’ll develop connections with the other guys and come up big when you need it the most.”
In the fourth inning, another 6-4-3 Trujillo-to-Shepherd-to-Gray double play helped strand a runner at third base — which, at the time, would’ve given Hoptown the lead.
“Any time you can get two outs on one play it’s outstanding, especially with it still being a 0-0 game,” Bomber coach Andy Lasher said. “Roman’s been good all year and I think Craig has just about got second base down. He’s gotten a lot better with turning double plays.”
By stranding Hoptown’s potential go-ahead run, the Bombers pounced in the fifth inning starting with Jaxson Blair's single and stolen base followed by Bryce Krizan’s RBI hit to push home the first run of the night. But it was Mercier’s ensuing single that helped the Bombers break through for good.
Mercier’s tour around the bases started innocently enough. A clean single to right field.
“But I saw (the right fielder) throw it to third thinking he can get (Krizan) out, and the third baseman didn’t block the throw and no one was backing him up,” Mercier said.
So Mercier did what any speedy infielder would do — he read the throw was a bad one and slammed on the gas pedal with no stops in mind. Not until he got back to the dugout, anyway.
“I saw our third-base coach Bryce Paxson waving those arms like crazy so I kept going,” Mercier said. “I saw the throw toward home was off so I just kind of breathed easy with it and took off with it.”
While Mercier won’t get credit with a home run, or even an RBI due because of the Hoptown error, that “single” ended up going a long way.
“When you get breaks like that, it’s rewarding,” Mercier said.
After a strong outing from starter Caleb Wagner (5-3), who surrendered just six hits and one run through eight innings, it looked like the Bombers might have their second complete-game pitching effort of the playoffs. But after Hoptown loaded the bases on a dropped third strike and two walks, Lasher turned to a familiar face.
“The only reason I took out Wagner is that I could tell he was starting to get frustrated with the strike zone, and when you get that third out like you did and the throw gets away from the catcher, it can take a lot out of you,” Lasher said.
That’s when Lasher gave the nod to Tyler Hagedorn, who hurled a complete game in the first-round series-clinching win against Fulton. Hagedorn sidestepped the jam by forcing Reese Alexiades, the OVL’s regular-season leader in RBIs, into a groundout.
Hoptown managed a run in the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate, but Hagedorn sat down three straight to close the game and send the Bombers one win from clinching a championship — something many of the Bombers haven’t experienced since Little League and all-star team days, if they ever got to experience it at all.
“It’s probably been at least 10 years since I last won a championship of any kind,” Trujillo said. “I know how much that would mean to Coach Lasher and I know it would mean a lot to me and these guys.”
“I’ve only won one championship in my life,” added Mercier, who earned that one two summers ago playing in Colorado. “I can only imagine what it would be like to win one for the Dubois County Bombers.”
The Bombers can clinch their second OVL championship in the last three years with a win tonight; if necessary, the decisive game in the best-of-three series will be at 6 p.m. Sunday at League Stadium.
Thoughts of a title began to cross Mercier’s mind as he looked around an emptied League Stadium with a bewildered look on his face, as if to reminisce on the memories he’s made this summer with guys who were strangers just a few months ago.
“I think it would be one of the most rewarding feelings ever,” Mercier said. “Words couldn’t even describe it."
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