Southern Boone holds off Eugene in opening test

In Class 3 District 13 first-round game

WARDSVILLE, Mo. — Southern Boone was cruising.

The Eagles held a 6-1 lead and starting pitcher Brice Mueller was tossing a one-hit gem through five innings.

All of a sudden, things got awfully interesting.

But even though the Eugene Eagles were able to make a one-run game of it, Southern Boone held on for a 7-5 victory in a Class 3 District 13 first-round game Saturday afternoon at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

“They got a couple bleeders here and there and then hit one off our pitcher,” Southern Boone head coach Tony Phillips said. “We could have just let the floodgates open, and we didn’t. I’m proud of the boys.”

Mueller was on top of his game early on. The junior right-hander was perfect through 3 2/3 innings. Of those 11 outs, 10 were groundouts and one was a strikeout. By the time he allowed a two-out walk and RBI double to Preston Duncan, Mueller’s teammates had already built him a 4-0 advantage.

Sam Bowles put Southern Boone ahead 1-0 with an RBI single in the bottom of the second. The Eagles got three more runs in the third on a run-scoring single from Andrew Kent and a Eugene error that brought two more runs home.

While Eugene did tack on the run in the fourth, Southern Boone’s ninth-place hitter Bowles added a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-1.

With the way Mueller was throwing, it appeared Southern Boone might waltz to the win.

Not so fast.

“With this bunch of boys, there’s no quit in them,” Eugene head coach Heath Lepper said. “As long as we’re still battling, we figure we have an opportunity to win.”

Eugene put four runs on the board in the top of the sixth inning to cut the deficit to 6-5.

Blake Rains led off with a walk and Drew Geritz grounded a base hit up the middle before Cody Shaw effectively used a swinging bunt to load the bases with nobody out.

Austin Ellsworth then lined a hard shot off Mueller, bringing home a run and keeping the bases packed. The hit off Mueller knocked him out of the game, forcing Southern Boone to go to the bullpen and bring in Miller Bowles.

“It got him right where you can’t write about,” Phillips said. “Below the belt and above the knees. He’s in pretty good spirits. It bruised him a little bit he said. He’s going to be OK.”

After an RBI groundout from Duncan, Cameron Massman grounded a two-run single to left field to make it 6-5. A strikeout and a runner caught stealing ended the frame. Still, Eugene was in it.

“That sixth and seventh inning showed how much fight the boys have in them,” Lepper said. “They never gave up and kept battling the entire game. Two-run ball game, couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Southern Boone, clinging to the one-run lead, got a huge insurance run in the bottom of the frame. Ethan O’Keefe led off the inning with a double, his third hit of the contest. Gus Goodnight followed with a bloop single to right to cap the scoring.

Eugene brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, as the Eagles worked a leadoff walk. Eugene then went strikeout, fielder’s choice groundout and flyout to end the contest.

Eugene ends the year at 7-11.

Southern Boone (12-16) faces Blair Oaks in a district semifinal at 7 p.m. Monday in Wardsville. The Eagles and Falcons split the season series, with Blair Oaks taking a 4-1 victory April 2 and Southern Boone winning 11-0 on April 19.

“We live to see another day,” Phillips said, “and that’s what we want this time of year.

“We didn’t see their (No.) 1 or 2 (pitcher in the second game), but we played well and they didn’t. I’m sure they’re a little bit hungry for us. I just told the boys, ‘You’ve got to bring your A game.’”

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