QUINCY, Ill. — Tyler Lunger couldn’t have thrown a better game in perhaps his final outing of his career.
The Indiana University Kokomo right-handed pitcher dazzled for the Hannibal Hoots, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out 10 across 6 2/3 innings. It was his first start of the season after having nine previous relief appearances and didn’t throw more than three innings in any game.
However, when the Hoots learned starter Sean Beaver was shut down for the remainder of the season, manager Clayton Hicks turned to Lunger.
"He just called me up and he challenged me," Lunger said. "I figured it was going to be my last start, so why not?"
The only thing missing was getting the victory.
Despite Lunger’s outing, the Hoots’ offense mustered just two hits in a 1-0 loss to the DuPage Pistol Shrimp in the opening game of a Prospect League doubleheader Monday night at QU Stadium. The Hoots dropped the second game 2-0 as the Pistol Shrimp captured the final playoff spot in the West Division.
"(Lunger) may have given us the best pitching performance of the year," Hicks said. "He hadn’t started a game since high school and he’s always been a reliever. I told him give me as many innings as he could and all he said was he wasn’t coming out before the 85-pitch limit."
Lunger went 88 pitches before being lifted. One pitch, however, was the difference.
Lunger retired the first seven batters he faced and 10 of the first 11 before DuPage’s Adam Lopez belted the first pitch he saw in the top of the fourth over the wall in right for the 1-0 lead. The Pistol Shrimp (34-24) had just two hits.
Lunger followed the home run by retiring the final 10 he faced.
"I just treated it like I was coming in the sixth inning," Lunger said. "It’s still pitching. My mindset and how I threw never changed."
Hannibal (22-37) didn’t collect its first hit until Mark Goudy’s two-out single in the bottom of the fifth. Damian Yenzi had a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth, but was also stranded.
DuPage starter Jason Shanner threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball while striking out eight and walking one.
Reliever Kyle Strepek issued three walks in the bottom of the seventh that gave the Hoots the bases loaded with two outs, but Connor Manthey struck out after an eight-pitch at-bat to end the game.
"It just seems like we either hit really well but don’t pitch, or pitch really well or don’t hit," Hoots’ infielder Kyler Kent said. "Tyler was awesome tonight. We just didn’t back him up, and I wish we could have."
The Hoots were held to just six hits in the nightcap, and only had multiple baserunners in two innings. Joey Kalafut and Goudy had consecutive singles in the fourth, but a strikeout stranded both runners.
DuPage’s lone runs came in the top of the second on Ryan Belluomini’s two-run homer off Hannibal starter Jacob Young.