Through five innings, it looked like it was all over but the bus ride for Blooming Grove.
But that’s why they play seven.
The Lions had one hit and trailed by five after five, but came back to beat rival Mildred Thursday, 7-5.
In a game that started with the two teams’ aces on the mound, it came down to two freshmen. Blooming Grove’s Colton Barham – who entered the game with one varsity inning pitched – got the win after going the final 2 2/3s, allowing four hits, getting the Lions’ pitching staff’s only strikeout and not surrendering a run. Sophomore catcher Keller Southard had a two-RBI single in the sixth to make it 5-4, and after tying it, Brody Owens and Jarod Obenour had RBI singles in the seventh.
The win move Blooming Grove (17-5) into a first-place tie in District 23-2A at 9-2 with Teague. Mildred fell to 11-16, 8-3, and in third place.
Mildred starter Nic Shimonek was perfect through four innings, and had 10 strikeouts, including a string of seven straight looking. Obenour ended any perfect game suspense to lead off the fifth, doubling to deep left field. But he would be stranded.
Mildred had built a 3-0 lead with three unearned runs in the second off Blooming Grove starter Dalton Blake, who apparently left with an arm injury, and Shane Battenfield. The Eagles added two more in the fifth on a two-RBI single from Allen Knight.
It looked like enough. But things went south in the top of the sixth.
Shimonek got a quick out, then went 3-0 on leadoff hitter Jacob Williams before the game was halted for about 10 minutes as trainers and coaches checked out Mildred catcher Connor Hill, who clenched his lower back after the return throw to Shimonek. When play resumed, Shimonek hit Williams, then Owens reached on an error up the middle that looked like it might be a double play.
Instead, a walk loaded the bases, then with two outs Blooming Grove got runs on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and a walk, before Southard drove an 0-2 curveball up the middle to score two more and chase Shimonek for freshman lefty Justin Jenkins.
“I probably left him in one batter too long,” said Mildred coach Aaron Tidwell. Shimonek had not pitched deep into a game in about two weeks, he said. “He was laboring at the end.”
Shimonek ended with 11 strikeouts.
Barham had relieved Battenfield after the Knight hit that made it 5-0, and got out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth. In the seventh, he gave up a two-out hit to Colby Pair, who had three hits, but nothing else.
“Colton did a heckuva job,” Blooming Grove coach Matt Anderson said. “He had pitched one inning versus Rice. I am proud of that kid.”
Mildred had 13 hits, and was 8 for 17 with runners in scoring position. But only three of the hits scored runs. The Eagles left 11 men on base.
If Blooming Grove beats Riesel Saturday, the Lions will face Teague in a one-game playoff for first-place. If the Lions lose that game, they could face Mildred one more time for second-place. Mildred must beat Marlin Friday.
Blooming Grove 7, Mildred 5
Bl. Grove 000 005 2 – 7 6 1
Mildred 030 020 0 – 5 13 1
WP – Colton Barham
LP – Justin Jenkins
Top Hitters – BG: Jacob Williams 1-3 (2 runs, sb, HBP), Brody Owens 1-4 (2 runs, RBI), Jarod Obenour 2-4 (2B, RBI), Keller Southard 1-3 (2 RBIs), Tyler Ellis 1-3 (RBI). M: Jase Butler 2-5, Nic Shimonek 1-3 (2B, run), Will Burnham 1-4 (2 runs), Clay Waller 2-4, Allen Knight 2-3 (2 RBIs), Hunter Freeman 1-4 (RBI, run), Jordan Harvell 1-4 (run), Colby Pair 3-4 (RBI).
Records – Blooming Grove 17-5, 9-2 in District 23-2A. Mildred 11-16, 8-3.