SPRINGFIELD — Arnold baseball coach Mitch Kelly wasn’t all that motivated to conduct a body count on the ineptness on the Marlins’ offense this month.
He was a lot more anxious, however, to explain what his ballclub’s come-from-behind 6-5 eight-inning win over Ensworth (Tenn.) could mean in the scheme of things.
It was the second straight extra inning game for Arnold in the Panama City Invitational high school baseball tournament that moved back to host Rutherford’s complex on Wednesday. The Marlins lost 1-0 to Jacksonville Mandarin on Tuesday night when the first round was played at Bozeman because of wet grounds at Rutherford’s field.
That outcome wasted a 13-strikeout performance by Bobby Courson, who pitched six shutout innings and surrendered only three hits. When Arnold (3-12) entered the bottom of the sixth inning against Ensworth trailing 5-0 on Wednesday, it translated into a scoreless streak of 25 consecutive innings spanning three shutout losses.
Once the Marlins finally crossed home plate they got reacquainted with that ritual and scored five times in the sixth. A two-out, bases loaded walk to Takoda Carmichael pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
“We finally strung together a couple of hits,” Kelly said. “It seemed like we had been doing all our hitting with two outs” and the bases empty. “This team really needed something good to happen, and it shows these kids haven’t given up.”
That didn’t seem to be the case while Ensworth (0-5), also needing some positive reinforcement after a lopsided loss to Farragut on Tuesday and coming in winless, surged ahead while the Marlins struggled at the plate, on the mound, in the field and on the basepaths.
Then came the decisive sixth inning. Hunter Renker, who had thrown two shutout innings in relief of starter Coleman Goodwin who went three, got into immediate trouble when cleanup hitter Kyle Funk reached on an error, Carmichael coaxed one of his three walks and Courson singled to load the bases with nobody out.
Instead of impending disaster awaiting for Arnold, Huey Strickland poked a two-run single to right-center field. Lucas Dunn then scored Courson with a safety squeeze bunt, and when Ray Peed reached on an infield single Strickland scored when Tigers shortstop Beau Allen threw past first and into Arnold’s dugout.
Austin Peffers’ second of three hits put runners on the corner with one out. With Kyle Cunningham batting, Peffers then strayed off first to begin a rundown that enabled Peed to steam home unwatched from third base.
Suddenly the game was tied 5-5 and in the hands of the bullpens. Blake Caldwell was the third Arnold pitcher, and after stranding pesky Nick Rolfe at third base in the sixth hr put down Ensworth 1-2-3 in the seventh and eighth. Caldwell was helped by catcher Denver Dangerfield snuffing pinch-runner Kiambu Fentress at third base on a stolen base attempt in the seventh after Fentress already had swiped second.
Meanwhile, Sammy Groninger, the third of fourth Tigers’ pitchers, survived based loaded and one out in the seventh, Rolfe nearly overcame singles by Peed and Peffers to open the eighth, but Ensworth booted an infield grounder that would have forced another inning and Rolfe’s 3-2 pitch to Carmichael sailed high.
“We needed to start extending our innings and not extending theirs,” Kelly said.
Rolfe reached base four times for the Tigers, three of them leading off an inning. His harmless-looking bouncer went through starting pitcher Carmichael for an infield hit to open the game. Rolfe stole second, and scored when Allen’s ground ball got underneath first baseman Riley Reitsma’s glove.
Grayson Lampley and Goodwin each stroked opposite-field RBI singles to make it 3-0 in the top of the third. Reitsma relieved in the fourth, and Ensworth’s lead swelled to 5-0 when the Tigers scored twice in the fifth on two walks and two infield errors by Arnold.
In other games on Wednesday, Father Ryan doubled up Rutherford 2-1, as Tyler Broxson took the loss, Mosley edged Farragut 1-0 and Mandarin defeated Bay 10-3.
Tuesday results: Rutherford 7, Farragut 0. Father Ryan 5, Bay 3. Farragut 13, Ensworth 0. Jacksonville Mandarin 1, Arnold 0 (8 innings).
Thursday’s schedule, all games at Rutherford: Father Ryan vs. Mosley noon, Farragut vs. Arnold 2:30 p.m., Ensworth vs. Bay 5 p.m., Rutherford vs. Mandarin 7:30 p.m.
Ensworth 102 020 00 — 5 5 3
Arnold 000 005 01 — 6 12 3
Goodwin, Renker 4, Groninger 6, Rolfe (lp) 8 and Hopkins; Carmichael, Reitsma 4, Caldwell 6 (wp) and Dangerfield.
Two outs when winning run scored
LOB: Ensworth 8, Arnold 9. E: Ensworth 3 (B.Allen 2, Renker), Arnold 3 (Reitsma, Cunningham, Peffers). 2B: Arnold (Peed). Sac: Ensworth (B.Allen), Arnold (Dunn). SB: Ensworth 4 (Rolfe 2, Just, Fentress). CS: By Dangerfield (B.Allen, Fentress). HBP: Groninger (by Reitsma), Peffers (by Renker), Rolfe (by Caldwell), Courson (by Groninger). PB: Ensworth: Hopkins.