It’s been a tough, long season for the Quincy Gems baseball team this summer. With twice as many losses as wins entering Sunday evening's contest against Prospect League Western Division leading Lafayette, the Gems found a new way to lose.
The Gems out hit the Aviators 16-4 but came out on the wrong end of a 14-11 decision.
“Just a crazy game,” Gems co-manager Adam Hightower said following the loss. “I believe this is a first for me.”
Hightower was referencing the manner in which his team lost. Six Gem pitchers combined to issue 17 walks and hit five more batters.
Austen Martinez started for the Gems. He was responsible for six of the walks, to go along with a hit batter, and allowed six runs — all coming in the first inning.
Brian Sharp’s two-run double was the only Aviators hit in the inning.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Hightower said of all the free bases.
But the Gems never gave up.
Bradley Harrison and Tyler Engel belted a pair of three-run home runs in the home half of the inning before Cody Birdsong’s RBI triple gave the hosts a 7-6 lead.
“That was huge for our guys to answer back,” the Gems on-field skipper noted. “They did a nice job of squaring up baseballs and just kept plugging away.”
After escaping a bases loaded jam in the second inning, newly-signed pitcher Luke Abraham’s fortune ran out in the third.
The Aviators pushed across four more runs despite recording just one hit in the inning. Three of the four runs scored on wild pitches. All four base runners who scored reached base by either a walk or hit by a pitch.
Lafayette (32-22) extended its lead to 11-7 in the fourth inning on yet another wild pitch — the 10th of the game by Gems pitching.
Again, Quincy (18-37) had an answer.
Ben Whetstone capped a two-run fifth inning with an RBI infield single to cut the deficit in half.
Gems No. 9 hitter Kyle Burnett tied the contest with a no-doubt two-run home run in the seventh inning.
“It was good to see the guys didn’t quit tonight,” Hightower said of the comeback. “Our offense gave us a chance to stay in the game.”
The Aviators regained the lead for good in the top of the eighth inning.
Noah McGowan scored from second base on a Bradley Harrison wild pitch with two outs.
“It was the play of the game,” Lafayette coach Brent McNeil said of the heady base running from his second baseman. “He did a nice job of noticing the catcher (Austin Emanuel) didn’t know where the ball was right away. It was the best thing I saw in the entire game.”
McGowan reached base with a wild pitch on swinging third strike. The strikeout would have ended the inning.
Dougie Parks gave the Aviators a pair of insurance runs in the ninth inning with a two-run double.
“Honestly I don’t even know how we were still in the game to begin with in the ninth inning,” Hightower noted.
Birdsong and Harrison led the Gems 16-hit attack with a trio of hits apiece. Birdsong finished a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.
Whetstone, Blake Hart, Engel and Burnett all finished with a pair of hits in the loss.
The Gems return to the diamond when they play host to Springfield Tuesday night.