Two clutch doubles by Greg Gralike and C.J. Martin gave Oakville the run it needed to top host Mehlville in the 10th inning Tuesday.
The Panthers matched the Tigers run for run with each team scoring one in the second, fifth and ninth innings.
Mehlville has been no stranger to close games this season, losing by less than three runs in three of its four losses.
“We just can’t put hitting and pitching together… so we’re getting kind of used to playing in close games and late-inning situations,” Mehlville coach Tim Ode said. “Just having some good at-bats, and just hitting the baseball hard is all we preach, just put the ball in play and good things happen.”
The two teams previously met in the Mehlville/Lindbergh preseason tournament, where Mehlville won 8-1.
“We really have been our own worst enemy as far as hurting ourselves more than our opponent has, so to win a game like this against a good team and a team that beat us 8-1 a few weeks ago, back on their field, we’re definitely turning the corner I think and we’re getting better,” said Oakville coach Rich Sturm.
Both teams had strong pitching performances with Austin Simokaitis and Kevin Grempler at the mound for Mehlville.
“It’s heart-breaking to have pitchers—and they’ve done this all year—go out and throw a gem and come out of it empty-handed,” Ode said.
Sturm called his team's pitching performance outstanding as Nick Hummel pitched until the fifth with Jacob Lund and Will Miller finishing the game.
“Those guys really were the glue that held us together there when we were struggling to scratch anything offensively," Sturm said. "You have to give the Mehlville pitchers credit, they did a great job too. I just thought that those three guys did an outstanding job of making big pitches in key situations.”
Jimmy Kohl knocked in two runners with singles in the second and ninth innings, giving the Tigers an edge toward the end of the game.
But Mehlville stayed alive in the ninth inning with a rocket out to right field by Brandon Zufall that sent sophomore Dylan Okenfuss home. A Lund strikeout ended the inning, sending the game into the 10th.
That’s when Gralike started off with a double and Martin followed one batter after, bringing in the winning run. The Tigers held Mehlville to three batters and three outs to end the game.
Martin struggled his first three at-bats with two strikeouts and a fly ball, but then found his groove, singling before hitting the double.
“C.J. is at his best when he hits the ball from gap to gap, from left to right center,” Sturm said. “When he really bears down and focuses on hitting the ball straightaway, he’s pretty dangerous right there in the middle of the line-up.”
The two rivals face off again Wednesday at GCS Ballpark in Illinois.
It’ll be the battle of the seniors as Martin and Mehlville’s Kurt McGuire take the mound.
“I think it’s a big honor and I’m looking to go out there and pound the strike zone and keep it low,” Martin said. “Especially with today, it’s good to build momentum going into GCS (Ballpark).”
Ode knows exactly what his team has to do if they want to pull out a win Wednesday.
“We’re going to see a better pitcher tomorrow and we definitely have to cut down on the at-bats that we’re giving away and the weak ground balls and make sure that every at-bat counts and every out counts,” he said. “We definitely have our work to do at the plate.”