Twin Rivers gets walk-off win in 8th
MALDEN -- Jamie Robards had never beaten Greenville. In fact, none of his teammates had.
One of six upperclassmen on the Twin Rivers baseball team, Robards had fully experienced the Royals' six-game losing streak to the Bears that dates back five years.
On Monday night he ended it.
With the first pitch he saw, Robards knocked in the game-winner with a bases-loaded single down the first-base line, sending the second-seeded Royals to the MSHSAA Class 3 District 2 final with a 3-2 walk-off victory over the third-seeded Bears in eight innings.
"I just told myself, 'I'm gunna hit the dang ball,'" Robards said. "He threw me a fastball right down the middle, I hit it right on the nose and now we're going to the championship. It's an amazing feeling."
Twin Rivers (8-7) advanced to the final for the first time since 2012, the same year the Royals last beat Greenville. The Royals will face fourth-seeded Malden for the title at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in a rematch of the 2012 championship, which Twin Rivers won 13-3.
"It's been too long and it's my first time going in four years here as an assistant or head coach, so this is big for us," Twin Rivers coach Jared Stockton said. "We're ready to rock and roll, I can tell you that."
One inning earlier, the Royals had a 2-0 lead and were two strikes away from advancing without all the dramatics.
That is until Greenville (8-5) rallied with the bottom of their order. No. 7 hitter Noah Suratt led off the seventh with a single and advanced to second on a hit by Jace Osborn before Wyatt Barks reached on a fielder's choice to put runners on the corners. Leadoff hitter Tye Huff's sacrifice bunt back to Twin Rivers starter Baylen Teague allowed Barks to score and cut the deficit to 2-1.
Teague then intentionally walked Jack Becker and Trey McDaniel for the second time in the game to load the bases with two outs. Will VanMatre took a strike during the next at-bat before Teague bounced a pitch off the plate that hopped over catcher Jack LeGrand's glove and rolled to the backstop allowing Barks to score the tying run.
"All year long they've learned not to give in, to keep battling, and they did it today," Greenville coach Scottie Blackburn said.
McDaniel, the Bears' ace, retired the Royals in order in the seventh to force extras but reached his pitch limit in the process. The senior finished with 17 strikeouts to put him over the 650 mark in his career with the Bears. He set down the last 11 he faced in order and allowed seven hits with zero walks in seven innings before being lifted for reliever Alex Hicks.
After getting out of another jam a half-inning earlier in which the Bears put runners on second and third with one out, Teague led off the eighth with a single and advanced to third on Jack LeGrand's double to left-center field. Greenville intentionally walked No. 5 hitter Tanner Ledbetter before Robards came through with his first career walk-off hit.
"Jamie is a big-time player and when you need him he's going to get a hit," Stockton said of Robards, who was 2 for 4. "With the bases loaded and nobody out I was confident he was going to get the job done."
It was the end of a streak for Greenville, which won the previous two district titles and faced a less-than-ideal situation without McDaniel on the mound in the eighth.
"It's a shame we had to take him out because he was such a warrior for us tonight and has been throughout his career," Blackburn said of McDaniel. "Obviously we would've liked to throw him out there for another inning, but those were the cards we were dealt."
In a pitcher's duel between Teague and McDaniel, it was Teague who got the best of his counterpart early.
With one out in the third, David Deken roped a single up the middle giving way to Teague, who scorched a long, fly ball over the head of Greenville's center fielder for an RBI double and a 1-0 lead.
"When he's locked in he's the best hitter I've seen," Stockton said of Teague, who was 3 for 4. "He's a gap hitter and he hit one up the middle off McDaniel earlier this fall, so after his first at-bat you could tell he was locked in."
McDaniel only allowed two more to reach as Robards first hit came an inning later when he led off the fourth with a single, stole second and took third on a throwing error. He walked home two batters later on Jackson Siebert's one-out single to push the advantage to 2-0.
Neither pitcher surrendered much more the rest of the way. Teague retired the next eight he faced before giving up an infield single, which clipped off his glove, in the sixth. He struck out 12, walked one and gave up five hits in eight innings to get the win.
"He was throwing nails all night," Stockton said. "He had the one bad inning but he really helped keep us in the game and then get the win late."