After Luke Gray recorded the final out Saturday night in a 9-2 win against Nevada at Vivion Field, getting Lane Marlow to fly out to Lincoln Orellana in right-center, the Jefferson City Renegades' post-game celebration looked no different than any of the other 10 they've celebrated this season.
It was not evident in their pitching staff — starter Manny Ramirez and relievers Christian Thrasher and Gray struck out 13 batters combined, while allowing just seven hits and two walks — nor in a lineup that collected 10 hits and 12 walks and struck out just six times, that this was a team that had just snapped a seven-game losing streak.
"It was just relief," head coach Mike DeMilia said after the win. "We haven't played terrible baseball. I'm not sitting here, 'Woe is us, woe is me,' but we've had a lot of things go against us, and it seems like we can't get breaks, and early in the game that's kind of how it was. Then we caught some. That's the way it goes."
Not counting a 16-4 loss to Chillicothe a week ago, Jefferson City had lost six games by a combined eight runs, and led at one point in five of those games. So it's no wonder the team looked free and easy on the mound and at the plate.
"It's been there, it just seems like you just don't make the big pitch or the other team just gets that key hit, or we leave a bunch of guys on base," DeMilia said. "It was nice to see tonight us actually get a few hits with guys on base."
Martinez, after pitching just two-thirds of an inning in that loss to the Mudcats, threw six stellar innings, giving up five hits, two walks and two earned runs against eight strikeouts, including five in a row.
Those two runs came in the second inning, after the Renegades struck first on a Dede Cole leadoff walk and a Paul Haupt double: two quick pop-outs were followed by a walk, single and triple from Nevada's 7-8-9 hitters.
After giving up a one-out triple in the third, Martinez struck out the next two batters. The Renegades came to the plate in the bottom half of the frame and promptly took control, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring five runs on four hits and four walks, including three runs with two out.
Martinez got off the bench after a long rest and struck out the side on 11 pitches.
"That's huge. There's times where having that long inning freezes the pitcher, then he comes out and struggles, all of a sudden they get two or three back," DeMilia said. "For him to come out and throw that zero up, and do it in the fashion that he did, that was huge."
Tommy Reuther was 3-for-5, scored twice and drove in two runs. Logan Haring and Haupt also had multi-hit games, each hitting 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. All told, seven different Renegades scored and seven different players drove in runs. Reuther, Haring, Haupt, Cole and Lincoln Orellana all drove in at least one run and scored at least once. Peyton Leeper and Austin Fennewald both scored in that third inning after drawing walks and Ryan Missal and Sam Creed each drove in a run.
The win put Jefferson City back in the MINK League South wild-card game, a half-game ahead of the Griffons and just four games back of the division-leading Ozark Generals with 10 regular season games remaining, four of them against Ozark starting with a 5 p.m. doubleheader in Springfield today. The Renegades are 1 games back of second-place Joplin with three home games left to play against the Outlaws.
"This team is capable of making a run, it's just a matter of, can we put it all together and keep it going," DeMilia said.
"We control our destiny pretty much the rest of the way, really, up to pretty much winning the division. I mean, you go and win every game the rest of the year you're probably going to win it, especially playing Ozark four times. But we can't ask our guys to win 10 in a row, but 8-2, something like that, isn't out of the realm of possibility."