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Tradewater remains lone unbeaten team
Tradewater (Ky.) Pirates coach Steve Fowler was thinking his team might go the entire game Saturday without getting the break it needed.
But the Pirates capitalized on an error by the Plaza Tire Capahas to score the tying run, and they went on to post a 3-1, 10-inning victory at Capaha Field in the winners bracket final of the National Baseball Congress Mid-South Regional.
The Pirates (21-10) moved within one victory of their second straight championship in the double-elimination event. They'll play the host Capahas (18-6) again at 1 p.m. today. If Plaza Tire wins, a second title contest will determine the automatic qualifier into the NBC World Series.
"We're close, but we know we still have to win one more game and it won't be easy," Fowler said.
The Capahas scored a first-inning run on an RBI double by Josh Eftink, and right-hander Josh Joiner carried that 1-0 advantage into the eighth inning as the Pirates failed to capitalize on several solid opportunities.
Then, in the top of the eighth, the break Fowler was seeking finally came. With one out, Jason Massey walked, and courtesy runner Rob Boucher moved to second on Joiner's wild pickoff throw. With two outs, James Akin walked and Boucher advanced to third on the ball four wild pitch.
Curtis Pitt then struck out on a ball in the dirt that got away. Catcher Levi Olson picked the ball up and tried a quick swipe tag on Pitt, but the ball was dislodged. Olson appeared to still have time to retire Pitt before he reached first base, but the throw glanced off Pitt and bounced into short right field, as Boucher scored the tying run.
The Pirates pushed across two runs in the 10th on RBI singles by Akin and Scan Watts.
That big break aside, the star of the game for the Pirates was soft-tossing right-hander T.J. Turner, who used a knuckleball and changeup to baffle the Capahas. Turner, who plays for Division II Kentucky Wesleyan, went all 10 innings and allowed seven hits while striking out none and walking two.
"I usually throw mostly knuckleballs, but today my knuckleball and change were both working pretty good," Turner said. "I try to keep them off balance, and we had a heck of a defense."
Tradewater made several spectacular plays, including two outfield catches in the bottom of the 10th.
"My boys kept believing in themselves, T.J. kept us in it, and the defense was tough," Fowler said.
Joiner worked 7 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and an unearned run. He struck out 10 and walked six.
Jamie McAlister took the loss. In 1 2/3 innings, he gave up one hit and one run with three strikeouts and no walks. Josh Parham, who gave up Akin's tie-breaking single -- the run was charged to McAlister -- allowed three hits and one run in 2/3 of an inning.
"The Capahas are an awesome team and that's the best pitching staff we've faced," Fowler said.
Massey, who doubled to start the Pirates' winning charge in the 10th, had two of Tradewater's eight hits. Dominic Rio and Daniel Moore also added two hits apiece.
Rick Mundy, who joined the Capahas for the tournament, led Plaza Tire with two hits.