The Monroe City baseball team wants nothing more than to erase the second inning of an 8-3 home loss to Macon on Tuesday night.
Without it, the Panthers would have been in line for their second Clarence Cannon Conference victory in as many days after blowing out South Shelby on Monday.
As it turns out, the frame led to their demise.
"Other than that one inning, we played real well," Monroe City coach Derek Vanlandingham said.
In the fateful frame, Macon's first nine batters reached base as the visitors surged to a six-run rally to break the game open.
The Monroe City (2-7) defense had a communication breakdown on a bunt by Tigers freshman Ryan Petre, who got on to load the bases. Nobody covered first base in time after Panthers starting pitcher Dawson Shively fielded the ball.
The next Macon (8-4) batter reached on an error to bring home the first two runs of the inning — and the Tigers were just getting started. By the time junior Cade Hicks singled home teammate Nash Waller to cap the damage, Macon led 7-0.
"When you give a team six outs an inning, even an average ball team takes advantage of that," Vanlandingham said. "And we can't do that to a good team like Macon."
Neither squad scored again until the sixth inning as the pitching staffs took over.
Shively kept Macon off the board through the remainder of his outing, lasting four innings in the losing effort. Macon starter Cody Roth tossed the first three innings to earn the victory.
In the fifth, Monroe City center fielder Lance Williams came through with a highlight-reel worthy catch to keep Macon lead off hitter Jamison Hogsett from extra bases. Williams sprinted toward a tailing fly ball and came down with a diving snag to end the inning.
"Lance does a great job in the outfield," Vanlandingham said. "He's only a sophomore, but you can definitely tell he loves the game. He's always staying a little extra getting fly balls or hits in the cage. Hopefully other guys keep on building off that."
Macon tacked on another score in the top of the sixth to go up by eight. Waller opened the frame with a triple and eventually came around to score.
Monroe City third baseman Josh Underhill was part of a scary situation during the inning. As Waller raced to third on his triple, Underhill was struck in the eye by the ball, which came in hot on a relay throw.
"The ball deflected off the runner and hit him square in the eye," Vanlandingham said of Underhill. "I took him out. He said everything was blurry. They did take him to the emergency room just to check it out. Hopefully nothing serious."
Moments later, Monroe City reliever Randy Musgrave appeared to have elbow trouble after delivering a 2-1 pitch to Macon junior Shane Levett, forcing Vanlandingham to turn to Jarrad Verdier out of the bullpen. Verdier finished the inning without any further damage.
The Monroe City offense came to life in the bottom of the sixth.
Gavin Lehenbauer drove home Williams and Austyn Nevels for the Panthers' first runs of the contest, and Joshua Crook smacked a deep double to score Lehenbauer that cut Monroe City's deficit to 8-3.
"We didn't start out good, but at the end of the game we started to put a bat on the ball," said Nevels, a team captain. "Our pitching threw some strikes and got some outs. Our defense got better as the game went on. We just chipped away at it to see what we could have done."
Unfortunately for Monroe City, its comeback stopped there. After Verdier worked a scoreless top of the seventh, Monroe City went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half to close the contest.
Nevels said his team, which faces Highland in a CCC road game at 5 p.m. on Friday, learned a lesson about keeping its heads up even after falling behind.
"We never quit," he said. "It's just we've got to keep our heads up and play our best out there and learn from our mistakes."