Dodge City A’s pitcher Paul Smith opened the National Baseball Congress World Series winner’s bracket game Thursday night in stellar fashion, facing 12 Newton Rebels batters through four innings.
Then he hit the first Newton batter of the fifth inning. And gave up a single to first baseman Grant Dunnegan. And then overthrew first while fielding a routine bunt, giving up three runs.
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Smith said. “I picked it up. It slipped out of my hand as I threw it. It put us in a 3-0 hole.”
Smith and Dodge City recovered, though, and the A’s defeated Newton 4-3 in 10 innings.
The throw by Smith was wide of first base and it rolled under the bench in the Newton bullpen.
“We weren’t aware that if it goes into the bullpen, it’s fair play,” Dodge City right fielder Mitch Corwin said. “I was in right, and I put my arms up (for out of play).”
But it wasn’t, so all three scored.
“I put us in a bad position, but we stuck with our approach through the whole game and came back,” Smith said. “The guys really picked me up. I’m really pleased, especially, to get the win.”
Smith especially responded well, which pleased manager Phil Stephenson.
“Painful is the best word to describe it,” Stephenson said of the error by Smith. “Heartbreaking is what it was like for him. It’s a very difficult situation for him, but he kept battling, keep battling.
“We keep telling guys, give us an opportunity. They’ve seen it, they know. We have guys who, any inning, could bust it open.”
Smith faced 11 batters over the next three innings and in eight innings, he gave up three hits. Tommy King came on in relief and only gave up a single hit.
“Paul pitched his butt off, he pitched great,” Corwin said. “And Tommy did, too.”
Newton also had a strong showing from starter Edgar Lopez, who gave up two hits and one earned run in eight innings.
And while Dunnegan said the fifth inning did give the Rebels momentum, the A’s started to chip away at the lead.
“We played small ball and had a couple good plays,” Corwin said.
Dodge City got a run each in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th innings, but it wasn’t without its share of drama.
In the ninth inning, Corwin walked and then went to third on Tyler Drake’s hit to right field. The ball was well hit, but Newton right fielder Tyler Faught dove to make the catch. He was just short, and then the ball bounced past the center fielder.
With the bases loaded after an intentional walk, and one out, Cole Davis hit a fly to left. The left fielder dropped the ball, Corwin scored and then Drake headed for home as the ball skittered into foul territory. But Drake was thrown out at home, and after an inning-ending strikeout, the game went to the 10th.
Newton got its first runner on, but then Rodger Diaz was called out for batter interference and manager Brad Salsman was ejected for arguing.
In the bottom of the 10th, Dodge City’s Bryant Burleson hit a one-out single, and two batters later, he scored on Corwin’s two-out RBI single to right.
“In that situation, I’m a lefty up against a left-handed pitcher,” Corwin said. “He threw me a first-pitch ball, so I’m spotting up … and I’m looking on the inner half, and he happened to throw it there. It worked out.”
Such a dramatic win has been common for Dodge City this season.
“This is probably the 10th time we’ve done that this year,” Stephenson said. “We’ve come from behind, down in games, come back and won in late innings, in extra innings. This team seems to have a never-say-die attitude.”
As for Newton, Dunnegan said his team isn’t finished, despite the tough loss.
“It’s frustrating, but we still have momentum,” he said. “… We just need to clean up a little stuff in the field, but I feel we’re just as good as anyone in the field and we can compete with everybody.”