With two runners on and two outs between his team and a win, Calvary Lutheran baseball coach Rusty Bourg had a tough decision to make Monday.
He threw Beau Monson into the fire, shifting him from shortstop to the mound with a one-run lead to protect.
"I hate doing that to him, because you miss out on that mental preparation," Bourg said. "If you know when you're going to pitch, you have some time to get mentally prepared. Physically, he's OK, but he comes in there, and mentally: "Uh oh, all of a sudden I'm in there, and now I've got to get two outs.'"
Monson escaped unscathed, using six pitches to induce a pop out and groundout and close out the Lions' 3-2 defeat of Prairie Home.
"That's hard on most pitchers, a lot of pitchers," Bourg said. "But he came in and got it done."
The Lions led by two at the beginning of the inning, but Prairie Home put three runners on without hitting the ball out of the infield, starting with a leadoff error.
"If we make that play, then it may be a little different," Bourg said. "If we make that play, the first baseman can play back. He doesn't have to hold the runner. ... The ball blooped over my first baseman's head, who's holding the runner on. So, that didn't help. But yeah, that's frustrating. You get in on the hands of the batter, and he doinks it here and doinks it there."
The Lions had three total errors, but the Panthers had defensive troubles of their own. Calvary took six extra bases due to misfired pickoff attempts or wild pitches, and Prairie Home also committed five errors. The Lions struggled to fully capitalize, though, notching just three hits and stranding 10 runners. Calvary also ran into an out trying to stretch a single into a double and another getting picked off between third and home.
"We moved from first to second and second to third, occasionally, but then we did a couple bonehead things on the basepaths and eliminated some potential runs," Bourg said. "But it worked out. It's just the nature of the game. Sometimes luck's on your side. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the ball bounces your way. Sometimes it doesn't."
The Lions fell behind in the second when an unnecessary throw allowed Prairie Home pitcher Klay Holliday to score from second on a routine groundout.
Calvary responded in the bottom of the inning by sending their own starting pitcher around the bases. Jordan Duenckel walked and reached third on a steal and a single from Monson. When Monson stole second, Duenckel crept home on a delayed steal.
The Lions took the lead the next inning when Hance Sommerer drew a walk, one of nine issued by the Panthers, and advanced to third on two awry pickoff tries. Tristan Clementich drove the Calvary catcher in with a single.
After a scoreless fourth, the Lions tallied the crucial insurance run in the fifth. Sommerer led off the inning with another walk, and Bradley MacLaughlin drew four balls of his own. Sommerer scored on a wild pitch, though the Lions couldn't manufacture another run with their two additional walks in the inning.
"I anticipated scoring a little more than three," Bourg said. "But it is what it is, and we'll take it."
Duenckel went six innings on the mound for Calvary, allowing one unearned run on six hits and a walk.
"He threw strikes," Bourg said. "They put it play, and we made some plays. If you make the routine plays, you've got a good chance of winning."
Panthers pitchers Holliday and Creed Flood combined to strike the Lions out seven times.
"That's the biggest challenge for these kids, to just refuse to strikeout," Bourg said. "But you've got to give (Holliday and Flood) credit. They came in (and) they threw strikes that had a little something on it."
The Lions improved to 2-3 on the season.
"That was a good win," Bourg said. "Prairie Home's a really improved team. I understand they whipped us in basketball two or three times. They were improved."
Calvary returns to action today at St. Elizabeth.